Cambodian satellite city near Phnom Penh destroying wetlands with 1 million at risk of flooding, report finds

A damning new report shows a multi-billion-dollar satellite city near Phnom Penh threatens to pave over vital wetlands and unleash untreated sewage into the Mekong River, putting more than 1 million people at risk of dangerous floods and water pollution.

The project further threatens to upend the livelihoods of hundreds of people and contribute to unsustainable sand dredging, according to the report, Smoke on the Water, released on Monday by human rights and land rights groups Equitable Cambodia, Sahmakum Teang Tnaut, Licadho and the Cambodia Youth Network.

The Beoung Tompoun and Cheung Ek wetlands, the report says, “are currently being destroyed by development groups building high-end condominiums, gated communities, and megamalls”.

“Development is great for the rich people. But we are not rich. It’s not great for us,” one farmer from the wetlands told report authors in May this year.

More than 1,000 families live on the wetlands or rely on them for farming and fishing in the area just south of the capital, not far from the Killing Fields.

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Erin Handley