Today it is my great honor and pleasure to participate in this ceremony to launch the Chroy Changva Water Supply Facility, which has been constructed with concessional credit from the World Bank.
Please let me express my appreciation to the management and the staff of Phnom Penh Municipality, the Board of Directors, General Director and all the employees of the Phnom Penh Autonomous Water Supply Authority for their contributions of efforts and skills that provide water supply services to the people, especially with the realization of this project.
Indeed, water is a vital resource for the sustenance of human life. “Water is the source of life and development“. Moreover, clean water has economic and social significance. Economically, clean water is a basic resource necessary for daily life and production and therefore economic growth. Socially, clean water is required to support the wellbeing of all individuals, regardless of age or status in society. Access to clean water is an important indicator of the level of poverty in society. For these and related reasons, clean water supply and hygiene are a major concern of the Royal Government, realizing that the provision of clean water is crucial to the promotion of the public’s well-being.
Although Cambodia is rich in water resources, the access to clean water is still limited, especially for people in the rural areas. Currently about 60% of the urban population have direct access to clean water. The remaining 40% rely on clean water redistributed from other sources without guarantee of its quality. In the rural areas, only 24% of the population have access to clean water. In Phnom Penh, 100% of the people in four central districts and 50% of suburban population have clean water for their use.
The use of unclean water causes ill health, impacts on the financial status of families and worse, it is a major cause of sickness and death, especially among the children. In the rural areas, it requires tremendous effort and time to get water for everyday use, since the water sources are many kilometers away. In general, such fetching of water is performed by children and women, thus reducing their opportunities for study, and activities to improve their knowledge, skills, intellectual as well as physical capacity. Such a waste of time and effort in drawing water means reduce the well-being of people and constrain the productivity of the economy. All these are the critical roots of the poverty.
In order to resolving the challenges of clean water, the Royal Government of Cambodia has set a policy agenda for social development and poverty reduction which is expected to supply clean water while resolving the problem of food security, the conservation of natural resources, management of population growth and disasters such as floods and droughts. Indeed, success in the management of these challenges will enable us to promote faster development and thereby rapidly improve the welfare of our people.
Indeed, given the broad perception about the importance of water resources in the national economy and the reduction of poverty, the Royal Government’s “Policy Agenda for Water Resource Sector” has been set. The policy aims to provide adequate water supply and physical infrastructure in both the rural and urban areas, to tackle the principal causes of poverty, ensure food security and improve the living standards and health of our people. This policy framework considers measures that promote the efficient use of water resources (either underground or surface), supplied for irrigation and human use.
In promoting the clear water policy, in August 2000 the Royal Government set its strategy on the supply of clean water to the cities and other urban areas. The main mission is to efficiently expand safe water supply, with equity and sustainability, to meet the daily requirements of the public. With the assistance of the international community, the Royal Government of Cambodia has focused on investments in the rehabilitation of basic facilities to produce and distribute clean water. The program is crucial to resolving the problems of institutional capacity building, development of technical expertise, and the improvement in the business operations of the water supply entities. The Royal Government is striving hard to implement measures to improve the supply of clean water, with emphasis on financial autonomy, adjustments in tax structure to lower the cost of water production and to attract private participation in safe water production, coordination of water resource distribution among the concerned ministries and institutions, and finally, strengthening of cooperation with donors. Therefore, the Royal Government has mandated the Ministry of Rural Development to take charge of the policies, strategies and programs for the supply of clean water in the rural areas.
As the Governor of Phnom Penh Municipality stated in his remarks, the Chroy Changva Water Supply Facility has been constructed with credit from the World Bank of US$12,382,665. This facility has a capacity of 65,000 m3/day. Whereas before, the Phnom Penh Autonomous Water Supply Authority had the capacity to supply only 120,000 m3 per day, a level not adequate even for the people of central Phnom Penh. Now, this new facility will expand capacity to cover a broader area, so that half of the people in Phnom Penh’s suburbs will also be served.
I strongly believe that with the carefully designed development programs of the Royal Government, the continuous expansion of the capacity of the Phnom Penh Water Supply Authority will soon meet the needs of all of the people of Phnom Penh. Indeed, such as achievement will be an important contribution to the implementation of the Royal Government’s policies and programs in poverty reduction. More specifically, it will improve the social, economic and physical environment as well as the livelihood opportunities of our people, beginning with the people of Phnom Penh.
[Start of Selected Additional Comments]
… May I take this opportunity to express my sincere appreciation to the Phnom Penh Water Supply Headquarter whose Governing and Management Board is under the leadership of HE Chea Sophara, Mayor of Phnom Penh. I wish to speak about the loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), to which the Water Supply Headquarter was able to repay ahead of schedule. This point is very encouraging. I used to mention with pride to the Thai Prime Minister that, like in Thailand where some IMF loans could be paid back ahead of schedule, Cambodia’s Water Supply Headquarter was also able to do so. This is very encouraging because for all loans there have to be repayments and paying ahead or right on the schedule would create confidence on the donor community. The Water Supply Headquarter has been entrusted with the funding of US$ 12 millions for the improvement of the water supply project. The project benefit was to provide the people throughout Phnom Penh with water supply.
… HE Chea Sophara has mentioned earlier that the supply of water directly to the consumers will help each household save some unnecessary expenses. Aside from investments on the water pump and water treatment so as to increase the water quality up to the level acceptable to the standard set by the World Health Organization, in the same instance we also help our people bring down their costs for water supply. As I have a chance to meet here HE Mayor and Deputy Mayors of the Phnom Penh Municipality I wish to convey my sincere appreciation to the efforts and creative thinking of the leaders of Phnom Penh and their staff. As you all may know already that there have been various important events happened in Phnom Penh. The ASEAN Summit, ASEAN + 3, ASEAN + India, ASEAN + South Africa, the Summit of the Greater Mekong Sub-region, the World Buddhist Conference, the Water Festival and the religious ceremony to be taking place tomorrow to relocate the Buddha remains. In 1991, when my wife and I were accompanying HM the King and Samdech Preah Reach Akkemohesey back to Phnom Penh, about 20 minutes before the plane landed, I could recall that HM the King and Samdech Preah Reach Akkemohesey said to me that they wish to relocate the Buddha remains to somewhere else if I were to have no objection. The wish is fulfilled today and tomorrow we will do it.
… It is true that the Royal Government has provided the Phnom Penh Municipality a good sum of capital investment for infrastructural improvement in 2000, 2001 and 2002. We have noticed also that donors like Japan, France, ADB and World Bank have given interests in this matter. Though the size of Phnom Penh is smaller than the sizes of provinces, still the number of people is one tenth of the whole population. So if no investment is made in areas of road renovation, drainage system, water supply and electricity, we could not call it a capital. Alongside with our focus on the rural areas, we also have to pay attention to the capital as well, and vice versa. We have also built the Kobsrov flood protection dike with the loan from ADB and counterpart fund of the Royal Government. This dike will protect Phnom Peng from flood from its northern direction. The dike along the Sak Sampeo stream protects the capital from flood from its western direction. I used to mention when I came to visit the construction site at Chroy Changva that “when we develop the western side, we also do not neglect the eastern side, when Chroy Changva becomes attractive, a glance is also made at the Royal Palace.” As we can see now that Chroy Changva is getting nice everyday and during the boat festival lately, despite three millions people flooded the city, the eastern side of the river that is newly developed has absorbed many of them. It relieved the traffic jams on the western side.
… If we were to have leadership of the Municipality who are irresponsible and uncreative even though we make larger investment, things would not happen anyway. Yesterday HE Senior Minister Keat Chhon and Minister of Economy and Finance had given tremendous support to eleven new projects for the Municipality of Phnom Penh. So they have to prioritize their requirements. We will be hosting many more meetings in the near future. We will have the meeting of the Prime Ministers of Lao, Cambodia and Vietnam – or the triangular meeting, the Asian Regional Forum of the Foreign Ministers and their partners in Phnom Penh, and the Mayors of the French speaking countries will also meet in Phnom Penh in March next year. It is also a good idea that we have designed and built homes with the Khmer style for display on the Chroy Changva peninsular. Nowadays it is hard to find the pure Khmer-style homes as they all have blended with imported culture.
… I wish to say today also that I have another thought, which is to separate three communes of Khsach Kandal district and Lovea Em districts of Kandal province and to give them to the Phnom Penh Municipality. I have already discussed this possibility with HE Sar Kheng of the Ministry of Interior. And the study is being conducted. We also had this problem before when we went to the Pochentong International Airport, we had to travel across the Dangkao district, which was then under the authority of Kandal and not Phnom Penh. So we had proposed this idea of making Dangkao a district of Phnom Penh. I also did the same for some communes at Prek Tasek, from where the Khmer Rouge used to fire H-12 mortar to Phnom Penh. But the new district should not be part of Russeikeo district but a district in its own right. Well some people say this will increase the price of lands. That is normal and it happens everywhere in the world. Whoever has the money they may buy it. The problem is they have to respect the principle that they have to make use of the land otherwise they have to pay tax on land. As for the people living along the National Road 6, the people living in area affected by an investment project and making protest for fear of being moved, I wish to declare today that as long as they have Hun Sen, they could not be moved out. I have proposed to HE Chea Sophara to terminate the agreement, but because we have to follow the procedure, I suggest the CDC look into this matter. The project does not go into implementation, why should we keep the place idle.
… The opposition blamed me unrealistically in the parliament that Hun Sen did not do any thing but build roads to his own home. Look at the many lanes of roads we built around the capital and new schools and bridges in many places. Why did they say like that? It is hard like we used to say to play music instrument for the buffalo to listen, because they would only understand the sound of “Trodaok” (a kind of wooden bell made specially for wearing on the buffalo or oxen necks.) Let’s see we have brought in Bailey bridges from China and they are mounted wherever is deemed to need them urgently. Why did they not see all this, or is it because they always went home after the parliament session? Take some bridges for example – the Bailey Bridges of Prek Tiv in Koh Thom district, Kandal Province, the Bailey Bridge of Kun Kru in the district of Kong Pisey of Kompong Speu and the Bailey Bridge of Angkor Baan in the district of Kong Meas of Kompong Cham. So the more they preach the more they lose. Every movement we made we thought of ways to alleviate poverty through the construction of bridges, schools, hospitals, roads, etc, while they on the contrary seem to seek the best ways to make their sharp slanders. They hope I would be incited by their agitation… But they will see their attempt will be in vain.
… As far as the position of Premiership is concerned, it will depend on the will of our people. If the people see that Hun Sen is doing them good service, they would so to speak vote for Hun Sen. If they do not vote for me, I would then respect their determination and appeal to the winner to set up a new Government in a timely manner. I respect the will and determination of the people. If our people feel that Hun Sen is a good servant, as well as the leaders of the Phnom Penh Municipality, we could then go on to one more term. This could be compared to a football team. It would be a discouragement to the team and to the match if some of the team members get changed. So if we all are doing fine, we should continue to go on… [End of selected additional comments].
With pride, I once again express my sincere gratitude and appreciation to the management and all the staff of the Phnom Penh Water Supply Authority. I also call for the further strengthening of the spirit of ownership and accountability for the tasks mandated by the Royal Government, particularly for the efficient use and maintenance of these facilities.
Let me also express my gratitude to the Governments of Japan, France, the People’s Republic of China, the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and other international development partners who have provided support and assistance for the clean water sector in Cambodia.
Ladies and gentlemen, let me conclude by most sincerely extending to all of you the five gems of the Buddha’s wishes. In behalf of the Royal Government of Cambodia, it is my pleasure to officially declare the opening of the Chroy Changva Water Supply Facility!