Tonle sap rural water supply and sanitation sector project: An ADB-funded Latrine-Building Project in Cambodia

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Courtesy of IWA Publishing

Water and sanitation are one of the most pressing issues facing people in rural Cambodia, especially around the Tonle Sap Lake and river basin. Of particular difficulty for sanitation advocates in Cambodia is the old habit of open defecation, with the result of exposing human excreta to the environment. This leads to water and soil contamination and to widespread disease outbreaks. For the many ‘floating communities’ of people living on the lake itself, this is an even larger problem, due to their direct contact with the water. The UN estimated that, in 2008, only 23% of rural residents and 82% of urban residents had access to improved sanitation, which means the country still has a long way to go to achieving ‘sanitation for all’. Indeed, rural water coverage is the second lowest in Asia, while infant mortality rates – due in part to high levels of waterborne disease – are the second highest in Asia.
Recognizing that large development investments in the country are needed to combat this situation, the Asian Development Bank began a major water supply and sanitation project for the provinces of the Tonle Sap basin, in partnership with the Cambodian government’s Ministry of Rural Development. In 2003, the Cambodian government passed a national policy on water supply andsanitation, aimed at increasing water supply coverage to 50% in the rural areas and sanitation coverage to 30%, and that ‘every Cambodian’ in rural areas will have safe water and sanitation access by 2025. This project is one of its first major steps forward.

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