… Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, let me add some comments to the prepared speech. I wish to say that after hearing some points summarized by HE Lim Keanhor I am very impressed and pleased to see that the creation of the Ministry of Water Resources in the second term of the Royal Government of Cambodia is proved to be a necessity. It was an urgent matter. Cambodia is having a water management problem. Sometimes it has too much of water in uncontrolled flooding, and sometimes it lacks water as serious as in drought. Take for example, like last year, on one side of the road was flood, but another was drought. So we have water, but we also lack water…
… Facing with this problem, we have thought of its root cause and foreseen that to deal with water issue at the level of department of hydrology seconded to the Ministry of Agriculture would be unproductive. That is why I have nurtured a wish since the end of 1994 to set up a mechanism to take full responsibility of the issue of water and its management. The Ministry of Water Resources, like the last child (Ministry) in the Royal Government, came into being in the second term of the Royal Government. It is very important to have an institution that is responsible for the management and systematic development of water resources.
… Take for example what was done in the Pol Pot regime. Engineers in this regime created a lot of problems that are left over to our generation. Their land reform policy brought about various water canals to be built but only a few that were useable. Most caused land deterioration and mismanagement for our people. A number of main canals were put in use after being repaired and improved, but most of them could not be used but also caused the change of water current. Such aftermath is yet to be resolved. That is why I would like to propose for more thought to be placed on concerned issues as there have been mentioned about small, medium and large hydraulic projects. Our approach in the construction of these water control systems is not to let one go before another, but to start them in parallel. If the large project is to commence first — let it go, and so do the small and medium ones if they are ready. But for each and every project direction we have to have a long-term vision. If we were to build a small project, we have to also think of possible linkages with the coming medium or large projects. So this would become finally a water canal system.
… In fact in some places we have noticed this idea of factionalism/regionalism, and it also justifies the creation of the Ministry of Water Resources. As I used to mention, conflicts that arise from water issue is not a simple matter. In our discussion we have thought and offered power to the water use and management community, which has in return resolved many problematic issues. Take an example, we used to have a problem that people with access to water along the main canal, supplied with water by the water pump, have had conflicts over issue of access. People with pumps upstream closer to the main pump were able to absorb water the most to their rice fields, while those down end of the main canal far away from the main pump have less access to the supplied water. Based on this experience I proposed to the people in Putsar, the area taken for example, that no one is permitted to pump water out of the main canal in between 06:00 p.m. and 03:00 a.m. This period of time should be left for the main pump to fill the canal first so that each and every one on either side, and/or either end of the canal would be able to equally benefit from it.
… There is another issue about inter-communes, in which heads of communes involved were in conflict with one another. The problem is that when one commune needs water, the provision of water to it would cause another commune to have their water depleted. Take for example the water management along the National Road 2 that borders two provinces together – Kandal and Takeo. There has a water gate on this road. If we were to open the gate at Choeung Rong lake, on one side of the road, the water on the other side would recede fast that flood recession rice could not be planted in time. This also brings about flooding on the western part of O Andoung, Prek Ambel (of Kandal.) The provincial governors of the involved parties were not happy with one another. The fact that I am talking about this issue is not to defend a decision to create a Government expense by setting up the Ministry of Water Resources at all.
… I went to Chhlong (Kratie) to inaugurate a bridge constructed by a Forest Concession Company. But I have no idea that the company obstructed two canals by trees, which diverted the water current and increased the water high that is used to be at 120 meter to increasing its pressure to thousands of cubic meters per minute. One reform that was conducted with less problems in a span of two years was the fishing lot, and it was a successful measure to help resolve conflicts over water in the dry season. A number of economists predicted that the reform of fishing lot would give benefit to our farmers who make their living from fishing. So far a size of about 56% or more than half a million hectares has been separated from the fishing lot for their use. Coupled with the fact that tax is not imposed on fishing equipment, our people have more chance to make use of fish production to help relieve their living condition.
… One interactive element in this advantage is the dry season rice. This causes a more difficult conflict. I have seen many requests made to help resolve conflict between rice farmers and fishermen. On the full-moon day, the fishermen would let the water go out of their water catchment system for catching fish, while the rice farmers would rather keep the water for their dry season rice cultivation. But we were able to resolve the matter very well in the last two years. This fishing lot reform policy will not be reversed in my term of office and would so continue if I remain in office… We should start whatever and whenever possible, the large, medium and small projects. We should not wait for the large one to be built first, then the smaller and the medium ones would be after. As we start them in parallel I suggest that each project conduct a proper study on its impacts, and prepare it for further development when the larger projects come.
… We have yet to define our area of cultivation as our capability to provide water is limited and so is our irrigated area. Also with this problem we could not offer guarantee the markets of our provision of rice. Our rice production is subject to the weather condition. So if we were to sign a deal to supply our rice to any market, we have to make sure that their demands are met… From end of 1992 up to 1994 there was a mistake. Prior to the mentioned period we offer intervention in supplying water through main canals. But as we stepped into the free market economy, we left a number of main water canals unattended. Some people even planted rice in them. I also conducted a policy of buying back the planted rice and deepened the canals from 100 to 200 meters for the water to flow to downstream. So any thought of abandoning state intervention in such a circumstance would be a mistake in face of our farmers. So the state has to continue its intervention on issue of main canals, and I am very pleased that the seminar agrees with this proposition.
… We have lots of concerns to be addressed. Places where I used to fish about 30 years ago have now become shallow. Before fishing in some places before the Khmer New Year would have to be done in a water depth of between hip and chest. But they have become rice fields these days. Silt and fresh fossil shallows those places. Tonle (River) Sap, the Mekong and various lakes and canals have silted up causing water to divert its course. This brings us problem in transport system by water also. In the latest law on water, we have obliged that any construction in the water territory has to have permission from the Ministry of Water Resources. Even the small river (Tonle Touch) has silted up in many parts making water traffic impassable. Secondly, fish circulation obstructed.
… I am very sorry as all these happened because everything Cambodian in those days was being punished. Of cause the past is a shadow but it is not a simple matter for Cambodia. The fact that we as human beings were punished is acceptable, but the fact that Tonle Sap and Angkor Wat were punished is a misfortune. Now that Cambodia starts its development of Angkor Wat, there come a blame of being an uncontrolled development. We have to use improper channel to purchase a silt pump machine because Cambodia in those days was not recognized and the seat at the United Nations was allowed for the Khmer Rouge. But now they have demanded that we have to try the Khmer Rouge. When the truth arrives, those hostages are almost dead.
… The problem of environmental destruction ranging from obstruction of water traffic, fish circulation, flooding are caused mainly by the fact that the water basins along the rivers and in the lakes from Stoeungtreng and Kratie downwards have silted up. In 2000, the flood moved downwards from Steoeungtreng, as a continuation from Laos, to Phnom Penh in a fast speed and proceeded, in face of lack of absorption from the Tonlesap Lake, to Vietnam making Prey Veng, Takeo, Kandal and Svay Rieng major flood affected areas. We have to discuss with Vietnam in search for a collaboration to prepare exits for water from upstream so that it would recede quickly from the four affected provinces. We also have to seek collaboration with upstream countries of the Mekong – Thailand, Myanmar, China, Laos in the frameworks of the Mekong Commission and the Greater Mekong Sub-region.