Capturing flood stories through film in Prey Veng

By Lien Pham


In October 2021, we visited three districts in Prey Veng province, to capture some of the experiences of these communities in flood situations on film. At the time of our visit, the peak period of flooding has just passed, although many households were still submersed in water.


We talked with households, many of whom are poor and socially disadvantaged, and with the village chief and commune chiefs to understand how flood impacts their livelihood, especially their access and use of clean water.



The villages are generally clustered along the road and surrounded by rice field. The geographic setting of the communities is low laying surrounded by high ground areas with high groundwater table.


Although situated in the Mekong River downstream, the areas we visited are not exposed to seasonal flood. However, during rainy season the level of water in nearby river or reservoir increase the ground water which then become saturated. These phenomena make the community very prone to flooding during heavy rain event. When flood occurs, the whole village might be covered in water for a few days. Those that are located in the lower areas can stay submersed much longer.


The common type of house structure for the poor and disadvantaged families is wooden house with leaf or metal roof. The houses are generally raised above the surrounding areas to cope with flood. However, the poor structures make the houses susceptible to damage from flood, storm and heavy rain.



Impacts of flood


The poorest families suffer more from flood not only because their houses are in the lowest areas but because most of their neighbours have raised their houses to the higher ground level to cope with the flood. Surrounded by the higher ground neighbours, the poorest families are much prone to waterlogging during the heavy rain season.


Most of the villagers rely on only one income source which is rice farming, although some families also have intermitted income source such as cows raising and fishing. This makes the community very prone and vulnerable to climate change impacts, and also resulting in migration to the city or other areas to work as construction worker or labour hire with minimum wage to support their family.


According to one village chief, change in rainfall patterns, especially in 2021, has negatively impacted the community. Heavy rain in late wet season resulted in loss of crop productivity, which severely affected household economic as rice farming in the main income source for the community.


Many roads are flooded which make it difficult for transportation in daily activities. Even when the flood period is over, many areas are still covered in mud for a long time. Muddy roads present risk of falling due to slippery path especially for disabled people.


Intense flood and long period of flooding result in significant economic loss as rice field is destroyed by flood.


Many families are exposed to health risks including skin disease, insect, snake, and dengue fever, waterborne diseases.


Water access during flood


Tube well is the most common source of water. During flood, the tube well is covered but there is no other alternative source of clean water.



Some families collect rainwater but there is not enough for long-term uses. There is no large water storage.


Some households boil or filter their water for drinking. However, almost all the disadvantaged households we talked to simply let the water in the jar settle naturally and directly drink or use that raw water.


Bottle drinking water is also available in the area, but none of the disadvantaged families could afford to buy bottle drinking water.


Sanitation and waste management practices during flood


If flood period is long, the latrine cannot be used because it is clogged. Many people revert back to open defecation, walk through flood water to defecate in the rice field, or pack their excreta in plastic bags and throw the water.


When the latrines are blocked, some households use a private service provider to pump their toilet with a service fee of 20000riels / toilet (approximately 5$), however they do not know where the fecal sludge is disposed. Some household may manually pump their toiled by themselves, and just bury their fecal sludge in their own land plot.


The common waste management practice in these villages is open burning. During flood, waste is dumped into nearby water.


Despite these observable impacts of flood on water quality and sanitation use, most people did not see these as critical issues of flood. For them unpredictable rainfall and damaged crop yield are concerns because they affect both economic and food security.



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