Over half of Banteay Meanchey province residents now have access to clean water, while the rest continue to depend on water from sources such as wells for their daily use, officials have said.

Speaking at a press conference on the province’s development at the Council of Ministers on February 8, provincial Department of Rural Development director Chea Yuthearun said Banteay Meanchey currently has 62 distribution stations that supply water to people in the province. But only 53.3 per cent of residents have access to clean water.

Banteay Meanchey has 794,245 inhabitants in a total of 196,400 households. According to the provincial administration, 85 per cent of the working population are farmers, 10 per cent are traders and five per cent are engaged in other occupations.

The province has 3,231 pump wells, 1,801 tube wells and 2,766 mixed wells.

It also contains 1,183 community ponds, but only 691 of them can be put to use every season.

Yuthearun said that as of 2020, the government had transferred the task of repairing rural water management systems to the sub-national level, with communes and districts proposing budgets to the Ministry of Economy and Finance to repair or improve the management of water systems locally.

The provincial administration has a committee for water consumption which is established in the community, directly managed by the community from commune to district level.

The committee collects funds from the sale of water to maintain and repair the water distribution stations. The owner of the land is appointed chairperson of the committee and collects funds to manage the operation of the wells.

The province reportedly lacks water for agricultural production in the dry season, which runs from October to April, especially for rice growing. Some parts are also prone to flooding during the wet season – from May to September – due to water flows from the Cambodia-Thailand border.

But Yim Bun Rom, director of the provincial Department of Water Resources and Meteorology, insisted that water consumption in the province has been well managed, even in the agricultural sector.

“Because of the fear of water shortage, we always make plans that predetermine how many hectares of rice we can cultivate per year. If people follow our plans, there will be no water shortage.

“In all provincial reservoirs, there is no shortage of water. We also have small canals that drain the water to help agricultural crops,” he said.

Kheng Som, chairman of Provincial Council, said the provincial administration made efforts last year to restore and improve the reservoir system in several places to store water for the irrigation of rice and other crops.

He said a total of 87 small and large irrigation systems had been constructed, of which six were large-scale systems, 75 were medium and six were small.

“The large-scale irrigation system can cover more than 5,000ha of crops, while the medium-scale can cover below 5,000 ha. The small-scale irrigation can disburse water to less than 500ha,” Som said.