Water in Crisis - Cambodia

Oriane Boudinot (Guest Writer)

Cambodia is a country located in Southeast Asia, located in an area which experiences the monsoon season from May to November every year, and has the Mekong River which flows through. You wouldn't think that this country would have water issues, but this is a fact of life. Having lived amongst Cambodians for seven months in 2009, I was exposed to some of these issues.

Drinking Water

Although drinking water is something that is available by opening a faucet in any Western country, this is a privilege which the West has. In a country like Cambodia, the main source of any villager's drinking water will come from rain fall. Water is collected in huge cement structures which store it for a long period of time. However, this creates unsafe environment parasites, and can also be the source of mosquito reproduction. This means that many people, especially children, get sick with diseases which can be easily treated. However, it is extremely expensive to receive treatment and adequate chemicals to purify the water. When I lived in the orphanage 15 km west of Phnom Penh, the personnel told me that in the beginning of this NGO's history, many children got sick due to poor quality drinking water. They then received enough donations from an organization in Canada, which allowed this organization to buy a water purification system, which has dramatically reduced the number of sick children.

Contaminated Water

Contaminated also comes from improper waste disposal. Everyone throws their trash on the floor behind the building where they cook, clean or live. This trash just sits in mucky water, which is part of fields that produce their food. This trash is everywhere in the country, especially plastic bags. This trash leaks some toxins into the ground, which then gets into the water, through surface or ground water.

Lack of infrastructure

The lack of appropriate infrastructure in dealing with the excess rain during the rainy season is also a great issue. Every time it rains, the water stagnates in the area, which creates saturated unstable soils, and attracts unwanted living things such as snakes and mosquitoes. Also in the markets, this is an issue with run off toxins being carried through highly congested areas in the cities. This stagnating water also will create unstable grounds for roads, which are mostly dirt roads in this country, creating bad conditions for driving the motorcycles, which is the main form of transportation in Cambodia.

Children often bear the burden of walking miles each day to find water in streams and ponds. Sickness and the time lost fetching it robs entire communities of their futures.

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