Floods and Phnom Penh’s Lost Lakes

The drainage system in Phnom Penh was unable to cope with the problem of flooding and as a result,many voices have come in for strong criticism.

Lost Lakes

Among all these affected districts, inhabitants of Boeung Kak criticized the most. Since Boeung Kak is the worst affected areas and where stagnant water from the flood still remains over 3 days after the initial downpour.

In 2007, Boeung Kak was leased to Shukaku Incorporated, who embarked on the Boeung Kak land project, which involved filling in the 90 hectare lake for building land. Boeung Kak is also one of six lakes in Phnom Penh that have been lost in similar way over the past decade. Other lakes have all been filled for land development after being leased to development companies by the Cambodian government.

Boeng Kak lake as it was before property developers moved in
Boeng Kak lake as it was before property developers moved in

No Place for Storm Runoff

Rather than the questionable legality and forced mass evictions, filling in the city’s lakes would inevitable bring problems in dealing with floods.

Boeung Kak Lake in 2003
Boeung Kak Lake in 2003
Boeung Kak Lake in 2013
Boeung Kak Lake in 2013

The lakes used to play a paramount role in reducing storm runoff for the surrounding areas. This is especially crucial during the rainy season. It is also likely that groundwater in and around the area of recently filled lakes is quite high, and thus floods more quickly. By filling in the lakes, developers have removed a significant piece of the city’s drainage system and replaced it with building land highly prone to flooding.

Residents of Boeung Kak have been vocal in their criticism of the city’s approach to flood control. Not only violence broke out between residents and police, but also stagnant water, combined with other dangers such as loose electrical wiring , is putting Phnom Penh’s in risk.

  1. You searched for phnom penh – FloodList. (n.d.). Retrieved December 18, 2015, from http://floodlist.com/?s=phnom penh&submit=
  2. Report of the Cambodian Rural Urban Migration Project. (2012, August 31). Retrieved December 20, 2015, from http://countryoffice.unfpa.org/cambodia/drive/Rural-urbanMigrationinCambodiaReport2012_EngVersion.pdf
  3. Flooding in Phnom Penh City – Sahmakum Teang Tnaut. (2014, October 3). Retrieved December 19, 2015, from http://teangtnaut.org/flooding-phnom-penh-city-2/?lang=en

3 Comments on “Floods and Phnom Penh’s Lost Lakes

  1. Inevitably, developments are mostly followed by sacrifices, however, in this case, it is totally not worthy. I believe that the government had considered the consequences before doing so, but they chose to ignore that, wrongly prioritised developments over the nature and the lives of the citizens. I think this could be the common misconception the developing countries have, which is developments and money always come first, so as what China did. Yet, they overlooked the fact that this, would only bring them negative grwoth. For instance, Phnom Penh will gain a large sum of revenue by development through destroying the nature, but the flood will eventually take away an even larger sum of revenue they gained by losing the natural protection. The compensation is always incomparable. The frustration is not only that the government keep repeating the same mistakes, but also the incapability of the citizens, the real victims to resist.

  2. In the previous article you mentioned that the lack of public parks is also one reason for severe flooding in Phnom Penh. I think it is true that grasslands provide certain capacity for seasonal rainwater, however does it also apply on severe raining? After all a better drainage system would be more useful then merely depending on the soil layer to absorb the excess amount of water. Phnom Penh is a city of disruption and suffered from a lot of social turmoil. It may be the fact that there has not been a sustainable governing power such that the city would have enough time to look into the infrastructural problem. Apart from flood prevention, I do think the lake could have served as a tool to regulate micro-climate in the surrounding area. It is really a pity to just cover it up to acquire more land. In Seoul there was a river once being covered up. You may refer to the Cheonggyecheon project to see how a water body could bring benefits to urbanization and city planning.

  3. Thank you for your comment, public parks for sure can provide certain capacity for seasonal rainwater. However, it is also true that providing more grasslands are not the most prioritized solution in the long term development. Therefore, not only creating more public parks are of paramount importance, but also implementing a better master plan or renew the drainage system are crucial.
    Happy holiday. =p

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