Agriculture and water resources officials in the provinces of Pursat, Battambang and Banteay Meanchey are continuing to rehabilitate and expand a number of sub-canal systems while also repairing and raising the height of dams used to store water for irrigating dry season crops.
Yim Bun Rom, director of the Banteay Meanchey provincial Department of Water Resources and Meteorology, told The Post that after they finish repairing the dams, which were damaged by the recent floods, his team would cooperate with agriculture officials and local authorities to help dig, restore and expand some sub-canal systems to facilitate the use of water by farmers who have rice fields in the highlands.
“We are working to restore some sub-canals and streams to make it easier to convey water for irrigating the farmers’ dry-season rice crop in the highlands,” he said.
According to Bun Rom, the experience of having a water shortage last year has made most farmers aware of the potential water-related problems that could disrupt farming in their region and they have been actively working with officials on the restoration of the irrigation system.
He added that in February 2021, some dry-season rice fields in this province may very well have to contend with water shortages, especially in Mongkol Borei district’s Soeu commune, which is located in a highlands area that is far from any irrigation systems.
Pang Vannaseth, director of the Banteay Meanchey provincial Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, also shared his concerns about water scarcity after seeing local farmers grow up to 250 per cent more dry-season rice than planned, which requires a lot of water.
“In the dry-season rice cultivation plan for 2020-2021, farmers in Mongkol Borei district, where dry-season rice fields are located in the highlands and far from water sources, are supposed to be limited to only 2,000ha, but they have planted up to 5,000ha which makes us very concerned [about water shortages],” he said.
According to Vannaseth, in the wake of the flooding this season, rice cultivation has reached 100 per cent capacity on 19,000ha and dry-season rice has provided an excess of 10 per cent beyond the 20,000ha that had been planned for the entire province, with farmers having cultivated up to 22,000ha.
Meanwhile, Battambang provincial water resources department director Long Phalkun told The Post that the work of digging, restoring and connecting sub-canals to the main canal system in order to access the water in the dam reservoir, which is about 120km away from the dry-season rice fields in Moung Russey, Rukhak Kiri and Kors Kralor districts, is now almost 100 per cent done in the upper regions.
“At the moment, our team is continuing with restoration work and upgrades to the dam. It is currently paved with red gravel and we are reinforcing it with concrete to strengthen the dam, and also to better facilitate travel by water,” he said.
According to Phalkun, the water resources ministry plans to expand and rehabilitate several large irrigation systems in the province to ensure a sustainable water supply and irrigation system.
“Overall, water supply for the upcoming dry season will not be a challenge for the people of Battambang, unless there is an urgent intervention from our provincial border authorities,” he said.
Similarly, Pursat provincial water resources department director Keo Vay told The Post that the rehabilitation of some dams and gates that had been damaged by the floods had been successfully completed and that his department was now focused on water management for agricultural supply in the dry season.
“At the moment, we have two large reservoirs with a total capacity of 50 million cubic metres which can guarantee the irrigation of 30,000ha of dry-season rice,” he said.
However, Pursat provincial agriculture department director Lay Piseth said on December 21 that after the floods, rice cultivation had reached 17,500ha when the original cultivation plan was only for 12,000ha across the entire province.
“We haven’t collected data from all districts and towns yet for dry-season rice cultivation for 2020-2021. But the data on rice cultivation after the flood is 100 per cent complete,” he said.
According to the data, water supply for agriculture in the dry season may not be sufficient if farmers grow more than planned.
Separately, in Tbong Khmum province’s Kroch Chhmar district, water resources officials and local authorities are working together to pump water from Prek Chhong, located in a low-lying area, in order to supply water to Boeung Chheuteal, a highland area, to try to save 217ha of dry-season rice grown by farmers in Prek Achi commune, which is facing water shortages.
Prek Achi commune chief Hy Ly Houv told The Post on December 21 that because this year water had not flooded into any of the lakes in his commune, the farmers, whose farmland lies in the highland areas, are faced with a water shortage.
“We have cooperated with water resources officials to pump water from Prek Chhong to rescue our farmers,” he said.