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PM Recommends Further Study of Impacts from Canal Connecting Rivers to Sea

PHNOM PENH: Prime Minister Hun Sen instructed the Royal Government to study the environmental impact of a proposed canal connecting the Tonle Sap to the sea. He asked that it continue the discussion with the Joint Committee of the Mekong River Commission as well.

Royal Government spokesperson Phay Siphan said on May 19, that the PM introduced these measures during a Cabinet meeting after reviewing the report of the Inter-Ministerial Commission to study and implement the "Tonle Bassac Navigation and Logistics System Project." The project aims to dig a canal from Phnom Penh’s Tonle Sap to the sea in Kep Province. It will pass through four provinces, including Kandal, Takeo, Kampot and Kep, with a length of 180 km. It will also see three dams built in Kandal, Takeo and Kep provinces to block the flow of salt water into the river.

The canal project will use pre-existing infrastructure as it winds through the provinces, including the Takeo canal of the Mekong River, the Ta Ek canal of the Bassac River and the Ta Hing canal of the Bassac in the Koh Thom district before finally arriving at the sea via Kep. Siphan noted that about 1.6 million inhabitants border the waterway.

According to the study, the project will require an average of less than 2% of water from natural rivers and streams under normal hydrological conditions. However, climate change could produce a sea level rise of more than half a meter, which the report says could cause a maximum infiltration of seawater of 1.23%, a small amount that will not cause any negative impact on environmental ecosystems. "If the valve gate is closed 100% all day, the water level will remain the same without causing loss [in salinity] or change in flow," the report said.

The canal project is a historic first in Cambodia's water transport sector which will connect the Mekong River System to the sea. It is estimated to take four years to construct at a cost of about $1.7 billion USD.

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