Public works ministry says cease and desist road encroachment

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Public works ministry secretary of state Yit Bonna (centre) hosts a Facebook livestream on taking care of roads and pavements. Heng Chivoan

The Ministry of Public Works and Transport has called for an immediate end to encroachment on pavements and the filling-in of drainage ditches on roadsides because it causes flooding and rapidly damages the roads.

The cease and desist order came during the ministry’s Facebook live show on November 29 which was held to answer the public’s questions about road management under the theme of “road maintenance and citizen participation”.

Transport ministry secretary of state Yit Bonna said encroachment committed by people along the roads had increased dramatically. The encroachment was causing damage to the roads due to activities such as piling dirt up higher than the roads, filling in drainage ditches and thereby making it impossible for water to flow off of the roads and causing rapid deterioration of the roads through flooding.

“From the beginning when we design roads, we comprehensively plan out the drainage systems and eliminate everything that could eventually cause rain-induced flooding to avoid damaging the roads.

“When we first built the roads people had not yet arrived and did not jostle for space by the roadsides – their houses were far away.

“But once we built the roads and the traffic started to increase, it attracted people to them and space next to the road then becomes something valuable … This is one factor that was different before 1970. At that time, people respected and maintained the pavements and the road lanes were always protected,” he said.

Bonna called on the people living along the roads to stop such activities and take better care of them. He also urged the local authorities to spread the word and to prevent these activities to avoid damage to the roads because all of it is preventable.

“This is a problem that has to be addressed by all, not just the public works ministry or the traffic authorities who must come up with other means,” he said, also urging the public and the local officials to learn and respect the traffic laws altogether.

According to Bonna, the ministry manages roads spanning 18,125km throughout the country, of which about 55 per cent are paved.

Kong Rattanak, president of the Institute for Road Safety, said the encroachment on pavements was sharply rising because the number of people had grown and the problem became a chronic one a long time ago.

He added that to solve the problem, more must be done than simply calling on the public to do the right thing. Encroachment is caused by many factors and so there must be many different approaches to solving it. This, he said, requires the participation of local authorities and the people.

“We see that the people are encroaching on the roads because the authorities do not stop them. On the one hand, the authorities do not know the law and do not know how to ban them. But on the other hand, the authorities know but allowed them to do it,” he said.

He said the problem was widespread because people just followed the example set by their neighbours or community members who they see getting away with it.

“People do not think about the public interest. This problem happens almost everywhere in Cambodia,” he added.