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Unified sewage system detrimental to health of borey residents

Architects and experts say Phnom Penh has to separate its sewage systems in order to provide clean drinking water to residents.
Architects and experts say Phnom Penh has to separate its sewage systems in order to provide clean drinking water to residents. Hong Menea

Unified sewage system detrimental to health of borey residents

As construction booms across Phnom Penh, little attention is being paid to the city’s sewage system. Experts continue to say that the current system is not up to standard due to the fact that wastewater and surface runoff are not separated, creating massive amounts of risk for the health of people living in the city.

Chea Bunseang, an architect teaching urbanisation and architecture at Pannasastra University, is in the process of studying the blueprints of the Peace Tower in Phnom Penh. Most Borey and real estate developments in Phnom Penh, according to Bunseang, don’t pay attention to issues regarding underground infrastructure because they usually have to construct their own sewage systems that accounts for both wastewater and surface runoff.

This exposes the city to a horrible septic odour whenever there is rain and is very unhygienic, allowing for the spread of skin diseases as well as the common cold, he said.

“Establishing a separate sewage system, as well as expanding the city’s green space up to 30 percent by planting trees in city projects, can eradicate the local problems such as flooding, sewage odors and heat, meaning they can live in a comfortable and healthy environment surrounded by a lovely green landscape,” he said.

“Once the rain dries up and the wind starts picking up, the microbes in the atmosphere will be borne by air and infect those who inhale or come in contact with them, resulting in people catching colds and other communicable diseases. These are the consequences of not having a separate sewage system.”

Bunseang has observed that most Borey and residential projects in Cambodia generally have high fences separating them and neighbourhoods are often organised based on income, making it hard for people in disparate parts of the city to communicate with each other about similar issues.

A worker helps build a sewage system in Phnom Penh. hong menea
A worker helps build a sewage system in Phnom Penh. Hong Menea

Seng Bunrith, an adviser for ADP Bank and the CEO of RLS International, acknowledged that cities in Cambodia have not thoroughly considered having separate sewage systems due to a lack of human and financial resources. However, he said that if a plan were to be put in place, he hoped that separate sewage systems would be installed in every single city and province in Cambodia.

Separating the wastewater system and rainwater system will help prevent the contamination of underground water which people use for everyday tasks, he said, adding that if wastewater is not properly treated, it will expose a wide swath of the city’s population to dangerous health conditions.

Seng told Post Property that according to one study, people living in Phnom Penh would face dire health consequences if they were to dig a well in Phnom Penh and use the water from it, as this water has not been properly treated and is filled with septic waste as well as toilet water.

The basins have not been built properly according to technical standards, allowing for dirty water to seep into underground water basins, he said.

Nevertheless, Ly Hour, head of the Housing Development Association of Cambodia, disagreed with Bunrith’s and Bunseang’s assessment, stating that Borey developments in Cambodia were aware of the issue. Each Borey is different, he said, but high-standard Boreys always had separate sewage systems to prevent any health risks for residents.

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