Prek Tnaut River’s Dam Releases Rising Water, Flood Alert Issued for Mekong

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Rising water levels in Prek Tnaut in Kampong Speu on September 28, 2022. (Ngay Nai/VOD)
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Residents along the flood-prone Prek Tnaut river have been alerted as water levels rise and an upstream dam has opened its gates to release pressure, while officials have forecast a surge in the Mekong over the next 3-5 days.

The Prek Tnaut, which begins in the Oral mountains and continues into Phnom Penh, is a major flood risk that prompted the evacuations of hundreds of families in the capital in the last two years.

On Wednesday afternoon in Kampong Speu, water rushed down the Roleang Chhrey dam in Samraong Tong district. Water levels there rose nearly half a meter during the day.

Say Bu, 81, said her house, about 15 meters from the river, was sure to flood if the water rose higher.

“We are looking every day to see if the water of the river goes up, so that we can be prepared when a flood happens,” Bu said. “When there is flooding, we will take our animals like cows, as well as our grandchildren and other basic needs, to temporarily stay above the dam.”

She​​ said it was difficult for people living in the area, especially for those who plant rice and raise animals, as floods were frequent and severe, with floodwaters often covering the entire village.

“In 2020, our house was covered with 2 meters of water,” Bu said. “We were forced to temporarily stay along the Roleang Chhrey dam for almost a week because it was the only place that wasn’t underwater.”

Rain has fallen continuously this week, with the country put on alert for the arrival of typhoon Noru.

Nhanh Cheap Hong, director of Kampong Speu’s department of water resources and meteorology, said residents, especially those who live below the Roleang Chhrey dam, must pay attention as Noru moves across Cambodia this week causing rain and rising water levels. The dam had opened its gates to release pressure on Wednesday, he said.

“We are monitoring the water level closely because based on the weather forecast, there will be rain until the end of this month,” he said, adding that the water had not yet reached emergency levels but people should be prepared.

“People are getting used to the flood so that they know where to go when a flood happens,” he added.

Kem Sarom, deputy chief of Aunlong Thom village in Tang Kroch commune, said the flooding itself could not be prevented. What authorities can do, he said, is to tell people to pay close attention to the level of water.

“The water of Prek Tnaut always rises rapidly and causes the whole village to be flooded,” Sarom said.

Tonle Sap Authority director Mao Hak said on Wednesday that the Prek Tnaut in Phnom Penh was under watch but not yet considered to be at concerning levels, and Noru’s rains should primarily hit other parts of the country.

In a statement issued Thursday morning, the Water Resources Ministry said typhoon Noru was expected to cause heavy rain along the Mekong river, especially in Kampong Cham, Stung Treng, Kratie and some parts of Phnom Penh over the next three to five days. The rise of the Mekong river, the statement said, is expected to cause some flooding along the river’s banks.

During the next three to five days, water levels on the Mekong could rise to around 10 meters in Stung Treng, 21 meters in Kratie, 14.3 meters in Kampong Cham and 9.4 meters in Phnom Penh, the statement said. Based on Mekong River Commission data, that would be a rise of around 2-2.5 meters from levels recorded on Wednesday.

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