Monday, June 06, 2011

Clean, Running Water in Cambodia's Capital!

In the capital city of Cambodia, Phnom Penh, amidst the small, lean-to homes, people are able to drink water directly from their faucets. With a population of 1.7 million, the city has managed to provide almost the entire urban population with access to clean, running water.

It all started with 61-year-old Ek Sonn Chan, head of the Phnom Penh Water Supply Authority (PPWSA). In 1993, when Chan was appointed head of the PPWSA, only 25 percent of Phnom Penh had access to running water. Today that statistic has changed to 92 percent.

Residents used to pay $1 a day for dirty water, and now they pay $4 a month for clean, safe water that comes from a faucet in their own home. Chan points out that almost everyone pays on time.

"It's not the problem of scarcity of water resources;” Chan explains, “It's not the lack of financing, but because of [the] lack of good governance." By gaining the city’s support, first with politicians, and then beyond, Chan has been able to bring good governance to Phnom Penh.

Another important part has been international aid. Chan explains that in his first meetings with international funds agencies in 1994, it took 5 days to get $10 million for assistance. Today, however, people come to him asking if he needs money.

Chan’s next step is the rest of Cambodia. He has written on a piece of paper above his bed that he will not rest until the entire country has clean running water.

-Sami Ressler