Government Allocates Another 22 Hectares of Tamok Lake

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A fisherman casts his net on Phnom Penh’s Boeng Tamok, on October 28, 2020. (Michael Dickison/VOD)
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The government is siphoning another 22 hectares of reclaimed land from Boeng Tamok lake, this time for military police families and a new branch of a public hospital, raising the known total area allocated from the natural lake to over 900 hectares.

The state has agreed to hand over 20 hectares of lake land in Prek Pnov district’s Kok Roka commune to the Health Ministry to build a new branch of Calmette Hospital, according to a letter dated December 23 from Council of Ministers secretary of state Ken Satha to the ministers of finance, water resources and land management, as well as the Phnom Penh governor. The land allocation was approved by Prime Minister Hun Sen, the letter says.

Last month, government documents showed that 275 hectares of the lake, in the same district, were allocated to private individuals, with some land swapped for city center property.

Health Ministry spokesperson Or Vandine and Calmette Hospital director Chheang Ra could not be reached on Monday.

A separate Council of Ministers letter dated December 24 says the government decided to cut off more than 2 hectares from the lake in Prek Pnov district’s Prek Pnov commune for 16 National Military Police families.

In 2016, the government issued a sub-decree designating the 3,239-hectare Tamok lake as state property. Environmental advocates say Tamok and other remaining natural lakes in Phnom Penh are key for wastewater storage and to ease flooding in the capital.

But between 2018 and 2020, more than 800 hectares of reclaimed Tamok lake land was allocated to state institutions and private companies for in-filling and development projects.

A 2019 report from urban rights NGO Sahmakum Teang Tnaut says all natural lakes in Phnom Penh are facing land filling, with 16 lakes filled since 1990 and another 10 partially filled.

Phnom Penh municipal spokesperson Met Measpheakdey said on Monday that before allocating Tamok lake land the government studies the environmental impact. However, he declined to comment when asked how many hectares of the lake would be preserved.

“The decision to cut and adjust any land or lake to do something — how much [will be] for the military’s work — that is a decision of the leaders of the Royal Government, not the decision of the Phnom Penh municipal administration,” Measpheakdey said. “We cannot decide by ourselves about how much to keep, but … all decisions related to the lake surface have already been studied [in terms of] the environmental impact and water release.”

Chak Sopheap, director of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, expressed concern over the decision to further fill Tamok.

“We should keep it as a natural area and a strategic location to deal with [flooding] disasters,” she said, adding that the government should share the results of impact studies publicly.

Otherwise, Sopheap added, “we do not know what the vision of sustainable development is.”

(Translated and edited from the original article on VOD Khmer)

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