Cambodian Villagers Return From Hospital, Worry Over Water Source

khmer-river2-050718.jpg The Prek Te River running through Sre Norn village in Cambodia's Kratie province is shown in an undated photo.

Cambodian villagers hospitalized after drinking water taken from a polluted river have begun to return home, with many openly concerned that clean water distributed by authorities may soon run out, leaving them again dependent on a contaminated source.

Over 200 villagers in Cambodia’s Kratie province were sickened, with 13 later dying, in an outbreak of illnesses beginning last week that authorities blamed partly on the consumption of homemade wine, citing symptoms including blurred vision and shortness of breath linked to methanol poisoning.

Most of those who had fallen ill had been sickened separately by drinking river water polluted by animal waste and insecticides, though, authorities said.

Speaking to RFA’s Khmer Service, a resident of Sre Norn, one of the two villages affected in the outbreak, said on Wednesday that the clean water now being provided to villagers by authorities is insufficient for people’s needs.

“Even now, the water is being distributed by authorities on a temporary basis, and there is not enough to go around,” Eng Channeng, 42, said.

“Some villagers have not received any water at all,” she said. “We are in a very desperate situation now.”

Speaking separately, Yann Yeang, a police inspector in Cheth Borey district in which the villages lie, said however that all families in the affected area are now receiving water distributed by NGOs and the Cambodian Red Cross.

Fears that the river water used by villagers as a drinking source may have been contaminated by chemical waste dumped by upstream mines or factories are unfounded  though, he said, adding, “We have found no such business sites.”

Authorities are now searching for alternative water sources so that villagers are not forced to rely on the polluted river, he said.

Reported by RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Nareth Muong. Written in English by Richard Finney.

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