– Your Venerable Buddhist Monks;
– Your Excellency Fumiaki Takahashi, Ambassador of Japan to the Kingdom of Cambodia;
– Your Excellency Juro Chikaraishi, Resident Representative, JICA in Cambodia;
– Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen;
Today, I am very pleased and honored to joint you all in this inauguration of a clean water system in Siem Reap supported by grant assistance from the Japanese People and Government through JICA. On behalf of the People and Royal Government of Cambodia, I would like to profoundly express my thanks to the People and the Government of Japan. I especially appreciate H.E. Fumiaki Takahashi, Ambassador of Japan to the Kingdom of Cambodia and H.E. Juro Chikaraishi, JICA Resident Representative in Cambodia and all Japanese staff as well as the advisors for their utmost efforts in implementing this project until we have attained this fruitful result.
Your Excellency Ambassador, the People and Government of Cambodia would like to ask you to convey our sincere appreciation and gratitude to People and Government of Japan for their vital role in assisting and supporting our country and people in the path of development and poverty reduction. Today inauguration of this clean water system represents a new achievement among many others that the Third Mandate Royal Government has attained in its effort to develop the country. Furthermore, it is also a new evidence, among many others, of our friendship, solidarity and long-lasting alliance between our two nations, Cambodia – Japan. In fact, this clean water system will indeed contribute to the poverty reduction among people in this area according to the “Rectangular Strategy” of the Royal Government for Growth, Employment, Equity and Efficiency in Cambodia.
Recently, the world has been paying tremendous attention to water issues because water is an important source of natural resource that is precious for sustaining the life of human, animal and plant. Every existing life on this planet earth can not be sustained without water, that is why there are sayings such as “if there is water there will be life”, or “water is the source of development”.
In the national development process, water resource is the most crucial aspect which is a necessity for every country in the world to use in their daily life and productions. For the agrarian country like Cambodia, water resource is even more valuable for enhancing economic growth and reducing the poverty. In general, water is needed for promoting economic growth and supporting life and wellbeing of every human-being. Therefore, the ability to use water becomes an important indicator in reflecting the poverty reduction rate in the society and promoting public wellbeing.
In general, the development of clean water system in Siem Reap as well as the countrywide development process has been noticeably improved. Starting from ground zero at almost everywhere, only about 9% of the population had access to clean water during 1990s, while now the access to clean water for population in provincial town and urban areas has increased by 40%. This is an improving step which we must recognize. However, along with this achievement we still have flaws and many challenges that need to be addressed. The success achieved is still far from the desired objectives being met. Both the service level and water quality have been monitored and are acceptable in large cities and concentrated areas. At small concentrated areas, clean water supply is still insufficient. These problems require the Royal Government to double its effort in accelerating the speed of development and enhancing investment on clean water supply sector at all small concentrated areas in the country in order to achieve the Cambodian Millennium Development Goals.
In fact, these developments must achieve the objectives both in terms of quantity and quality. At the same time, development must be done in a comprehensive way, whether it is for the solely private, private and public partnership, and public sector. Recently, investment in clean water supply is still very low if compared with the demand for fund in other sectors. Large gap between the quantity of investment needed and the actual investment in recent time has enormously reduced the speed of development in this sector.
In order to address these challenges, I think that the first necessary step is to ensure general understanding that investment spending for the improvement of clean water supply’s situation and hygiene is a proper public or private investment and the strategic to promote economic growth and provide the people and their family with the ability to take new opportunities their in life, businesses and various occupations.
Siem Reap province is a development pole which has a strong development in tourism sector. At the same time, together with the increasing numbers of national and international tourists, the hotel services, restaurants, resorts and other services have been greatly improved. The development of clean water supply system here is an effective and timely response to the demand for clean water of our people which is increasing gradually from day to day and the fast increasing speed of economic growth and other development. The production and supply systems which have just been established not only provide basic services for maintaining the livelihood and wellbeing of our people who lives here in Siem Reap city, but also can contribute to supporting tourism sector and other services and development with environmental sustainability. This is a main strategy of the Royal Government in the development of this important national historical area.
As aforementioned, clean water supply is one of a key sector among the effort of the Royal Government to elevate living standard and health of our people as well as to reduce poverty and improve quality of life. In this regard, the government has strongly committed in the Cambodia Millennium Development Goals to provide clean water and hygiene services to 80% of cities and urban areas and to provide clean water of half of rural area by 2015. Indeed, it is a big ambitious, but the Royal government has optimistic to attain the goals. We recognize that progress has been made rapidly and worth to be proud, but we must recognize that the road ahead is long way to go and have uncountable challenges.
At the same time of encouraging investment, expansion, supplies and improvement water quality at national standard, we also have some other priorities to be in challenge and need to address. Currently, demand for clean water increases both for home consumption and other sectors, particularly in industry. The contamination of water sources have also increase and do not have ability to clean it or water cannot be reusable; moreover there is an excess demand for clean water. Siem Reap, for example, demand of water for home consumption and for servicing tourist and hotel sector has tremendously increased and becomes a major concern of the Royal Government. Substitution for ground water in an excessive amount may impact to the future environmental issues, if there is no appropriate regulations and management.
In other cities and urban areas it also faces the same issue, for instance, Sihanoukville, the problem of water sources have been becoming severe, especially in the dry season since there is not enough water and rain-fall area was encroached and became smaller and smaller. In this case, attention from central and local government especially provincial government is required in recognition the implication of clean water supply to the daily life and health of the people. Therefore, it is important to protect water sources and supplies network, protect environment, and take appropriate measures to increase efficiency and sustainability use of water resources. At the same time, the participation form the home users is also imperative in order to overcome and manage the water resources to be success and sustained.
The above issues do not only require the commitment at political level, but also need a model of real implementation as well as an establishment of some necessary mechanism for those actual activities. In the same token of the spirit and during the second legislative of National Assembly, the Royal Government adopted a national policy on water supply and hygiene that focuses on two strategic priorities:
First – Establish and strengthen appropriate regulations and climate to induce private participation
Second – implement decentralization mechanism and impose a plan on self-administration of public services providers aiming at improving water supply, ensuring sustainability and quality of water supply, ensuring financial responsibility and efficiency in management.
In implementing the policy, the Royal Government will continue to establish a clear sectoral strategic framework which incorporates a very balanced weight between public and private ownership in order to maximize the benefit of both sides and to develop clean water supply in according to the situation and real context of our country.
In this agenda, Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energies, who is responsible for the development of these sectors, must continue its reform programs to be deeper and widely in coverage. The reform programs in the clean water supply must focus on their priority aspects as follow:
1. Integrating and harmonizing with other administrative reform programs especially reform programs on decentralization and good governance which establish a suitable environment for pressing the development of the sector.
2. Improving efficiency, productivity and quality of services and productions in order to build confidence in the sector that makes possible to get riches of financing sources.
3. Strengthening awareness, promotion and recognition of priority and implication of clean water supply to health and daily life of people as well as provide a priority in national development strategy.
All of these are another important agenda for the Royal Government to bring the attention in order to perk up quality of life and harmony of Cambodian people.
Again, on behalf of Cambodian people and Royal Government of Cambodia, I would like to express my sincere thanks to Japanese people and government who always provides support to Cambodia both in the past and the future in both knowledge and materials for the development of physical infrastructure in Cambodia’s society and economy.
Finally, along with the inauguration of clean water supply in Siem Reap, I would like to wish you all with five gems of Buddhist Blessing.