Hun Sen Demands Answers to Water Shortage

Prime Minister Hun Sen chastised local authorities in Preah Sihanouk province on Friday for their inability to prevent a water shortage in early April that crippled businesses in the tourist hub of Sihanoukville and left locals without running water for almost a week.

The state-run reservoir at the Prek Tup Lake dried up in mid-March after local authorities decided to reduce the amount of electricity being used to pump water to the city from Kbal Chhay, a waterfall 16 km outside of Sihanoukville.

Anco Water Supply Co. Ltd.—which provides water to Siha­noukville—then said it would not be able to supply enough water to the city due to the cost of pumping water from Kbal Chhay using its diesel-powered generator.

The incident underscored how Cambodia is battling during the hot season to supply a growing economy with sufficient energy levels and basic amenities.

Speaking at the Ministry of Agriculture’s annual conference, Mr. Hun Sen called on the provincial authorities and the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy to en­sure that a shortage of water in Sihanoukville would “never happen again.”

“We must guarantee the full water supply because [Preah Sihanouk province] is one of our biggest economic development poles,” he said. “It is the second-biggest in Cambodia, and it has many different sectors including industries, service and it has an [international] harbor.”

Mr. Hun Sen added that before Prek Tup Lake dried up, he had told provincial governor Sboang Sarath to put Kbal Chhay online to prepare for such an event. He also said that he had informed Anco “a long time ago” about extending their pipelines to Kbal Chhay.

“Why did they wait until we faced a water shortage for a week? Whose fault is that?” Mr. Hun Sen said. “The Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy must go down there and do an investigation on this issue.”

Mr. Sarath on Sunday defended his province’s efforts to deal with the water shortage, which he believed was handled in an efficient and timely manner—returning a full supply of water to Siha­noukville in five days. He also said the water shortage was inevitable due to the growing tourism sector.

“The lack of water came from the hot season and the water could only supply about 10,000 people, but now we have 60,000 people and there are a larger number of hotel rooms—up to 4,000 rooms compared to only 1,000 in the past few years,” Mr. Sarath said.

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