… I am glad that HE Ambassadors and Representatives of various organizations including the World Bank have taken time to join us on this occasion to review what we have done in the front of irrigation. HE Lim Kean Hor has just briefed you about a number of projects and I think it is enough for a prime understanding of what we named “Development Projects in the Western Part of Phnom Penh (DPWPP)”. What makes me start this project and make a quick decision in this regard? We have invested a reasonable sum of investment in this area, take for instance in education, health and water but the response has been insufficient and slow. Areas in the western part of Phnom Penh usually suffer consecutive floods and droughts making life difficult for our people in the area and this has prompted us to think of ways to improve the situation. We first pooled together a sum of US$ 500,000 plus 2,000 tons of rice.
… I alone have built here 140 school buildings. This means that I have contributed a sum of about three million US dollars in the sphere of education in the area. My vision on rural development is not to build only schools or roads or dig water canals separately. But according to our experiences, the three have to be addressed in order of priority. In places where the number of students could be accommodated by the number of schools already, water may rank top priority. Of course we need more roads and hospitals, but water is still a prime investment or the development project is incomplete. DPWPP is a medium size project and we have bigger projects like making use of water management and irrigation from the Vaiko River in Svay Rieng that we discussed with the People’s Republic of China in the last few years. We also have a good number of smaller projects that have been and to be implemented in the district of Kraing Yov in Saang and Roleang Kaen in Kandal Stoeung of Kandal, Put Sar in the district of Bati and Chiso in Samraong of Takeo, Chub Pring in the district of Kompong Ro of Svay Rieng, Baray and Svay Chi Aok in the district of Baray of Kompong Thom and Sralao Chroeung in the district of Punnhea Krek of Kompong Cham. Water, roads and schools are three areas that any projects of rural development in Cambodia have to focus as prime priority.
… This area, even in the rainy season and flood period last year, was dry. However, based on various studies we decided to make this area full of water in dry season. We have now succeeded in realising our objective. We have started in a small way but we hope to have more assistance for the sake of continuing to provide the three infrastructural demands to the areas. It is also important, aside from the contribution and efforts made by HE Lim Kean Hor and his team, to acknowledge participation of our people in the area and their patience while unwanted impacts were inevitable. For these inconveniences we have spent a sum of over half a million US dollars for compensation of their lands taken for the project. But our people understand very well that what they will get from the project will be long lasting and more than the compensation.
… As you all may notice that in some rice fields there are no left-over rice straws and that means that our people could not grow any rice. In the fields where there are straws left, it is telling you that the rice fields have been harvested and our farmers have got good yield because of our intervention in irrigation. As we could let the water down to this area even in dry season, it has changed our situation here, we no longer have to provide water for them for cultivation and they could cultivate more than one rice crop in a year. On April 13 I came here to see what could be said to be a flood in dry season and our elderly people aged more than 70 years old said they never see flood in this time of the year in this part of the country at all. As we have water in the field, I am glad to see that some fields have been transplanted already. Our people and the Prime Minister seem to have understood each other very well in this instance. Some of them came to me and said “Samdech Prime Minister you no longer have to bring us rice like the previous years, but you should bring us good rice seeds.”
… What we have learnt here is that the most important factor is the participation of our people and their initiatives taken in decision making process, which is in fact the implementation of the Royal Government’s decentralization policy. This is also importance for guaranteeing sustainability of the project. I have learnt a good lesson from my pilot development centre of Kraing Yov. In absence of people’s participation, our investments have been ineffective, though we have provided them with schools, roads, and water systems. As we have people’s participation and their sense of ownership, I would hope the development pace in the area will go on for another 100 to 200 years. As far as the project in the area is concerned, we first resolve issue of making water present in this area all year round. The Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology was placed in charge. Then it is the Ministry of Agriculture’s turn to oversee issue of agronomy as to where and what should be cultivated. This area, as some of you could have learnt already from your visit to the Rung Roeung Rice Mill, could be a place where good rice seed is produced or good quality rice for export is farmed.
… I have a recommendation to our people in this area that they should cultivate rice only twice a year and leaving the remaining time growing vegetable making the area a green belt throughout the year. Our people in the district of Kongpisey of Kompong Speu are growing watermelon well and they could make a sum of two to three million Riels a year from the plant (between US$500 and US$750). Along the water canal of about 79 Kilometres, we have grown about one million Akasia trees, the powder of which will be used in making paper. So in just five or six years the trees could be chopped for exports and the return from exporting will be kept as benefit of our community here whether it be for the maintenance of roads, canals or for replanting trees. I also have instructed the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries to hatch fish for farming in the canal so that they could feed our people when they harvest. Some of them may get carried away by flood but no matter where they go they will be the natural resources of our country. In harvest time, we advise our people to refrain from catching fish as it is time for fish breeding but they could catch fish in the canals here. We also have tree nursery centres from where our people could ask for fruit trees for planting in their homesteads.
… As we are now in the western part of Phnom Penh, we have to think about the northern part of Phnom Penh as well take for instance the district of Udong of Kompong Speu, the district of Ponnhealoeu of Kandal and the district of Kompong Tralach of Komping Chhnang. The construction sites have been busy now and we will take water down from Udong to irrigate one part of Ponnhealoeu and Kompong Tralach, while another will have water irrigated from the Tonle Sap River. We will keep the Southern part of Phnom Penh as a processing zone and the districts of Lovea Em and Khsach Kandal as agricultural areas. These are roughly what we have in mind for our development project of areas around Phnom Penh and I would like to thank PRC for its offer of Bailey Bridges and one of them that you all have crossed just now…