Villagers living in two drought-afflicted Banteay Meanchey districts appealed to authorities to distribute water yesterday, though officials claim the situation is not yet severe enough to warrant it.
Kok Houn, Slakram commune chief in Svay Chek district, said his village is suffering from a lack of water.
“There has been no rain and a small drought. Some villagers have to travel 8 kilometres to buy water,” said Houn.
Sam Van, a villager in O’Chhrou district, said his family doesn’t typically spend any money on water – collecting it instead from ponds and rainfall – but that this had changed.
“This month, we spent nearly $10 on water. It is difficult to find water, because many ponds have dried up. We hope the authorities will give water to us,” he said.
However, O’Chhrou district governor San Sanhour said the situation is under control.
“Of course there are villagers without water, but it’s not serious yet . . . The villagers can still buy water. If the situation becomes more serious, we will take action,” Sanhour said, explaining that authorities would step in to distribute water if needed.
According to commune chief Soung Meurng, in O’Chhrou district’s O’Beichoan commune there were already about 2,000 families buying water last week, as farmers prepare to forego planting crops for the third year in a row.
According to a recent report by the National Committee for Disaster Management (NCDM), 2016 was the worst year for drought in Cambodia in the past 50 years, affecting 20 provinces and 2 million people.
Keo Vy, NCDM spokesman, said Kampong Thom and Prey Veng provinces may also face drought in the future.
Vy said the situation was under control, but he was worried about O’Chhrou district in particular.
“In O’Chhrou district, the villagers have no water. If there is not rain soon, this district will suffer from a serious lack of water,” he said.
As the drought gets worse, the affected region will become larger, making it harder for O’Chhrou villagers to buy water from neighbouring areas, while prices also rise.
Last week, Nop Polin, a program officer for humanitarian NGO Dan Church Aid Cambodia, attributed the severe droughts to climate change, saying erratic weather patterns have become the “new normal”.