Source: Khmer Times / Tuesday, 19 April 2016 by Cheang Sokha and Ban Sokrith
Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday thanked the Chinese government for discharging vast amounts of water from one of its southern dams to lower Mekong countries facing drought as temperatures soar throughout the Kingdom.
Speaking at the inauguration of a Chinese sugar processing plant in Preah Vihea province, the prime minister urged Thailand and Laos to conserve their water usage as it travelled down the Mekong to Cambodia and Vietnam.
“I would like to thank the Chinese government for last week releasing water – for the third time – to help lower Mekong countries,” he said.
“And I would like to ask Thailand and Laos which are upstream to not use much water and to let it flow to downstream countries like Cambodia and Vietnam.”
The water level in the Mekong River has dropped as the dry season continues, with residents living along the river facing water shortages, which affect crop production and lower fish stocks which impact residents’ livelihoods.
Mr. Hun Sen said that while no one has died from the severe temperatures through the country, he urged citizens to be vigilant against potential fire hazards as the mercury has climbed to 40 degrees and more recently.
“I would also like to appeal to the public to be careful about fires in the forest which could lead to houses being burned,” he said.
Oum Ryna, the director of the Meteorology Department of the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology, said yesterday that almost all provinces in Cambodia are facing drought, with provinces such as Preah Vihear, Banteay Meanchey and Siem Reap suffering severe drought.
“Our ministry has been taking measures to help the provinces which are faced with drought since late last year by asking them to keep their water use to the basic essentials for daily life,” he said.
“We are asking farmers to plant rice only one time and we pumped water into reservoirs for use in the dry season and we also take big tanks of water to villagers who are facing a lack of water,” he said.
He added that at least six people were killed and 27 injured by lightning and storms in the first four months of this year. This number decreased by more than 40 percent compared with the previous year.
National Committee for Disaster Management spokesman Keo Vy said lightning strikes and storms have happened 21 times in 10 provinces – Battambang, Pailin, Banteay Meanchey, Pursat, Preah Vihear, Mondulkiri, Preah Sihanouk, Kampot, Kampong Thom and Oddar Meanchey. The storms have destroyed 107 houses and caused minor damage to 357.
He added that in the first four months of this year there has been a decrease of 40 percent in fatalities from storms compared with last year. In 2015, 15 people died, 47 were injured and 2,000 houses damaged.
“Lightning and storms have decreased due to the temperature and people understand more and take good care of themselves. However, the government is very concerned about the drought,” he added.
Mr. Ryna said the forecast is for the drought to be longer than expected, with only minimal amounts of rain expected.
“The hot weather will continue until the middle or late May and then there will be rain, but we have to be careful with storms and lightning during that time,” he said. –Additional Reporting by Mom Kunthear.