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Bringing Water and Sanitation Services to Cambodia’s Provincial Cities

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Access to water supply and sanitation services is a major challenge in Cambodia. Out of the country’s 16 million population, 12 million, or 72% lack access to reliable and safely managed water services, while 3.8 million Cambodians, or 23% lack access to improved sanitation solutions.

The country’s water supply provision has suffered from a weak regulatory environment and inadequate funding, with investments primarily centered on its capital, Phnom Penh. Meanwhile, the sanitation sector was considered in the early stages of development, with no substantial work carried out for wastewater. 

However, it is not all bad news. Substantial improvements in the provision of water supply and sanitation have been undertaken in recent years under the leadership of the Cambodian Government with support from its development partners. 

One such investment is the Provincial Water Supply and Sanitation Project (PWSSP), which aims to improve water supply and sanitation services in the rapidly expanding provincial towns of Battambang, Siem Reap, Kampong Cham, and Sihanoukville. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) provided a $50 million loan while Agence Française de Développement (AFD) co-financed the project with a $43.5 million investment. The European Union Asia Investment Facility further provided a $5 million grant. 

CDIA’s project preparation study (PPS) in 2015 served as the basis for the project. It conducted a rapid assessment of Cambodian towns to confirm the final project cities and prepared 20-year roadmaps for increasing urban water supply and sanitation services in the country. It also prepared pre-feasibility studies and preliminary engineering designs for identified priority projects and devised their implementation and procurement arrangements.  

 PWSSP Update as of October 2023 

 Eight years after the PPS was completed, CDIA’s monitoring team visited Siem Reap and Battambang to see firsthand the progress of PWSSP implementation. In Siem Reap, they found out that the civil works for the 3.7 km trunk sewer have already been completed, with additional work consisting of trench stabilization and road/footpath improvement along Sivutha Road.  

Based on CDIA recommendation, trenchless technology was used during the construction to minimize disturbance to business establishments and traffic, which was ideal for Sivutha Road as one of the busiest thoroughfares in the city. 

“There was a long discussion regarding cost,” recalled His Excellency Vong Pisith, Deputy Director General of the Ministry of Public Works and Transport (MPWT). “The open excavation was cheaper, but when we found out about the social, environmental, and other negative implications of using it in the project site, we made the call to use the trenchless construction method instead. The technology has further attracted other investors in wastewater and helped scale up our project,” he added. 

Business owners along Sivutha Road attested to the benefit of the project and how their welfare was considered during the construction. 

“The work did not take long; therefore, my business was not affected during the construction period,” said Mr. Kay Kim, a restaurant owner. “I have no problem with the separate system as there’s no more odor coming from the drain,” he added.  

This project was subsequently augmented by a World Bank-funded project, Siem Reap Wastewater Collection Network Development, which CDIA also prepared with a feasibility study and engineering design. 

In Battambang, the construction of the water supply and sanitation facilities is ongoing. In particular, the water treatment plant, with a capacity of 50,000 cum per day, and the 95 km of the water distribution network are at an 11% completion rate. Meanwhile, the construction of a wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) having a 12,000 cum capacity, along with pumping stations, and 51 km of separate sewer network is ongoing.  

“We had a very good cooperation with the beneficiaries before and during the construction when we did awareness-raising activities with them,” said Ms. Kem Sokuntheary, Deputy Director of the Department of Public Works and Transport (DPWT) and Project Implementation Unit in Battambang City. “The project has also provided jobs to some residents in the project sites,” she added. 

The village leaders who participated in the group discussions conducted by CDIA’s monitoring team also expressed their support and optimism for the PWSSP to achieve its intended objectives. 

We are happy to have this project in our area, and to have actively participated in the consultation meetings before construction, which enabled us to know more about the project and its benefits to our community,” said Mr. Vong Veat, Village Chief in Sangke District, Battambang City.

Furthermore, the team found out, based on reports and interviews that Kampong Cham’s water treatment plant and water distribution network are being constructed, although its planned septage management system, as well as the expansion of WWTP and sewer network in Sihanoukville, were canceled due to changes in government priorities. The budget for the canceled projects was reallocated to the Battambang and Siem Reap projects. 

Lessons Learned from Project Preparation and Implementation 

When fully completed, beneficiary communities will have increased access to water supply and wastewater services, leading to improved urban environments and resilience to climate change impacts.  

The success of the CDIA intervention in PWSSP may be attributed to (i) close coordination by the consulting team with relevant government agencies which ensured alignment of infrastructure investments with national and local development priorities; (ii) direct engagement with city stakeholders, which enabled the identification and prioritization of infrastructure needs; and (iii) integrating capacity development activities which facilitated meaningful stakeholder participation in project planning and implementation.  

“CDIA’s capacity development intervention in the early stages of project preparation not only enhanced the technical skills of MPWT officials on wastewater management but also established mutual trust and good communication which are key to the success of project implementation,” said His Excellency Vong Pisith of MPWT. 

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Photos along Sivutha Road in Siem Reap City:

Battambang West Wastewater Treatment Plant:

 

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