Minister of Water Resources Expresses Concern over Land Grabs

Minister of Water Resources and Meteorology Lim Kean Hor on May 8 wrote a letter expressing his concerns.

As the Council of Ministers revealed a large portion of Boeung Tamok has been given to an unnamed private company, Lim Kean Hor has spoken out.

PHNOM PENH--Minister of Water Resources and Meteorology Lim Kean Hor on May 8 called upon all municipalities and provincial authorities to help prevent land grabbing. Kean Hor expressed particular concern over precincts, canals, reservoirs, rivers and lakes of public water.

Kean Hor on May 8 issued a letter to all city halls and provincial authorities to express his growing concern over the encroachment on the riverbanks, rivers, creeks, streams and canals which are properties of the state. 

He noted that these activities pose a threat to water supplies and have the potential to cause floods and soil erosion when people develop property along river banks or rivers, rainfall areas. He added that construction that blocks access to waterways are in breach of the law. \

“The bank of the river, the river, the creek, the canal, and the lake, these are all public properties, so all provincial authorities and governors must take measures to facilitate the prevention of abuse from dumping land which is not in compliance with the law,” he said. 

The Cambodian government recently gave 34 hectares of Boeung Tamok, also known as Beoung Tumnup Kabsrov, to an unnamed private company according to a letter from the Council of Ministers.

Dated April 27, 2020, the letter was addressed to the Minister of Economy and Finance, the Minister of Land, the Minister of Water Resources and the Governor of Phnom Penh. It claimed that the government had given 30 hectares of Boeung Tamok to a Mrs. Kim Heang, who is thought to be the wife of sitting Cambodian People’s Party senator Ly Young Phat. Heang will have to offer any occupants using the land a fee of $5 per square meter, according to the council’s letter.

The letter doesn’t mention the outstanding 4 hectares, but goes on to say that three other plots of land, including 3 hectares of land east of the Win-Win monument in Phnom Penh, 2 hectares near the satellite city of Prek Pnov and Stung Meanchey landfills, as well as 4.8 hectares in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district have all been exchanged for the land of lake Boeung Tamok. 

Boeung Tamok has a legally demarcated area of 3,239.7 hectares and a population of 319 families who are at risk of eviction and losing their livelihood in the process, according to land rights organization Sahmakum Teang Tnaut (STT). 

Since 2016 the surface of the lake has been revised and reduced at least five times, twice for the private groups, once to fill the lake for a vegetable market and car park, another time for filling the lake for gardens and the Ministry of Interior’s construction, and finally as part of an exchange for 34 hectares to be given to a private individual, according to STT’s report. 

“The lake is also being held by wealthy people for housing, who use the lake as a farm and to sell,” STT said. 

The wetlands area of Boeung Tamok is helping to prevent flooding in Phnom Penh, but also acts as a natural freshwater reservoir home to a number of species of fish and birds, STT found in a December 2019 report.

STT said that, since 2003, developers of satellite cities and gated housing communities have poured sand into the wetlands and lakes, completely in-filling over 60 percent of Phnom Penh’s lakes and more than 40 percent of Phnom Penh’s major wetland areas.

 


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