New Minister of Water Resources and Meteorology Thor Chetha has instructed officials to pay close attention to keeping watercourses clear near the upper reaches of the Stung Prek Tnaot River. He warned that if canals were not maintained, flooding could occur and damage infrastructure as well as public and private property.

He issued his orders during an August 27 inspection of several key canals near the lower parts of the river, according to ministry secretary of state Chan Yutha.

Yutha said the minister also checked on the readiness of the heavy machinery on standby in the event of flooding.

“He also inspected canals 92, 94 and 96, which play a crucial role in preventing flooding in several districts of Phnom Penh, as well as parts of Kandal Stung district and Takhmao town in Kandal province,” he said.

“There have been no serious threats but we are taking precautions, as natural disasters are unpredictable and could occur at any time. In addition, we are mindful that it is the rainy season, which will last for at least two more months,” he added.

He confirmed that the ministry has upgraded the river’s drainage system from Kampong Tuol to the lower part of National Road 2, but acknowledged that there is still some work to be done in the lower parts – hence the minister’s inspection.

“The minister also introduced new measures that will allow a working group to begin identifying the best locations to open watercourses. We will also prepare more drainage systems, so river water can be removed more effectively, in case of floods,” he said.

He added that the systemic removal of water from the river was necessary, but also highlighted that the area has long suffered from floods.

“In the 1950s, a study was conducted and determined that a reservoir should be constructed at the upper part of the river, in Kampong Speu province,” he explained.

He recalled construction of the reservoir began around the end of the 1960s but was halted by Cambodia’s descent into war.

“The old reservoir location is now a residential area, so we cannot build there now. The ministry has studied the problem, and decided on the need for three reservoirs, in Kampong Speu province, near the base of the Cardamom Mountains,” he added.

Yutha said that only one of the three has been completed – the Tasal Reservoir located in Oral district’s Tasal commune. The other two are Khveach Reservoir in the same commune and Svahap Reservoir in Phnom Sruoch district.

Each of the three will hold more than 100 million cubic metres of water, meaning they will be capable of storing up to 500 million cubic metres.

He believed that when all three are completed, and with sufficient drainage system at the lower parts of the river, flooding in Phnom Penh – as well as parts of Kandal province – will be reduced by almost 100 per cent.

“We still face some challenges, but we have restructured the drainage system around the Stung Prek Tnaot River. There is much less risk of flooding this year than there was in 2022,” he said.