Preah Sihanouk provincial authorities have appealed to the general public to visit the coastal province during the upcoming Khmer New Year holiday as the beaches and seawater are now clean after the authorities closed a canal to halt the flow of dirty water into the sea.

On Thursday, the authorities closed a canal at Sokha Beach following the completion of four water treatment plants designed to purify wastewater before it reaches the sea.

The four plants are located at Independence, Sokha, O’Sa’at and Ochheuteal beaches, while four more facilities are being constructed.

Provincial Department of Environment director Samut Sothearith told The Post on Sunday that the sea water has returned to its original condition, while wastewater released into the sea prior to the canal blockage will be cleared soon.

“It will become clean soon following the blockage of dirty water. After only one or two days of low and high tide, it will be clean again. Normally the tide comes in the morning and out in the evening, so the wastewater will be cleaned [naturally],” he said.

In a bid to draw public attention to the beach and sea water restoration in the once-crowded tourist attraction, Minister of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction Chea Sophara on March 29-31 led more than 3,000 officials from the ministry’s departments throughout the country to visit the beaches and four water treatment plants.

Sophara also chairs the National Committee for Management and Development of Cambodian Coastal Areas.

Sihanoukville municipal governor Y Sokleng said Sophara and the more than 3,000 officials also planted trees during the three-day visit.

To attract visitors from far and wide, Sokleng said provincial authorities would also organise a Sea Sangkranta to celebrate the Khmer New Year on the beach, though he declined to provide further details.

The Post could not reach provincial governor Yun Min for comment on Sunday.

Sok Sokhom, the director of NGO Cambodian National Research Organisation, said he hoped the beach and sea water restoration would draw visitors to the once-popular tourist destination.

“When we prevent dirty water flowing into the sea, we make the environment clean, which is good for locals’ and visitors’ health,” he said.

However, Sokhom said that blocking dirty water alone would not be enough to attract people to visit the province.

He urged the authorities to look into room rates for accommodation and other environmental issues including strewn rubbish that could discourage prospective visitors.

“Room rates for accommodation there are prohibitively high while there are far fewer places for visitors to stay since Chinese nationals flocked to the province for small- and large-scale investments.”

“That has affected small businesses in the province as locals have rented their houses, hotels and guesthouses in large numbers to Chinese nationals. So there are now fewer guesthouses and hotels for visitors while room rates remain high,” he said.

Room rates for guesthouses and small hotels in the province, Sok Sokhom said, currently range from $20 to $100, compared to between $5 and $8 before the Chinese arrived.