Balang Commune, Cambodia

The EWB-NY project in the Balang Commune within the Siem Reap province in Cambodia was active from 2006 until official transfer of ownership to the community in 2010. EWB-NY traveled to the community nine times for assessment, implementation, and monitoring purposes. The approximate total cost was $120,000 (USD). See below for more information on this outstanding EWB-NY project!



Program Background

In the Balang Commune in Cambodia, over 9,000 residents had been dealing with a severe food shortage after an earthen irrigation reservoir levee was washed out during floods of the 2000 rainy season. EWB-NY and partner NGO Human Translation began collaborating on the design and construction of a 20-meter-long concrete water gate and bridge, and the repair of a 600 meter earthern embankment in order to once again provide irrigation water for the commune, with the goal of refilling the existing canals and increasing surrounding agricultural productivity.


The EWB - New York Professionals Chapter became involved in this agricultural construction project in early 2006. The team first traveled to the community in late 2006, sending a team of three to assess the project site, engage in meetings with community members and project stakeholders, and collect geotechnical samples in order to inform the design of the restored gate and embankment - part of the community's Trav Kod reservoir.

Additional trips to the community over the following 3 years saw extensive construction involved in implementing the team's design. Prior to the start of concrete construction, EWB members in Cambodia worked with the project's site superintendent to conduct classes on concrete construction. EWB-NY trained these workers in the basics of rebar bending, concrete mixing, and placement of both materials, with the goal of turning unskilled laborers into skilled workers with a higher earning potential. Throughout the project, EWB-NY also collaborated with Chai, a Khmer engineering student from Siem Reap, who learned the basics of water gate design and construction through our work. In return, Chai connected us to the teams on site, and communicated construction issues with us as they occurred.

Following EWB-NY’s restoration of the reservoir, Human Translation led an effort to introduce a method of in-community planning for secondary and tertiary canal construction, as much of the original canal system was overgrown or had eroded since the initial embankment failure in 2000. While EWB-NY was not involved directly with this followup effort, the decentralized community-based canal planning approach used represents a major advancement from the traditional government-based canal planning methods, which typically favored certain members of the community over others.

Project Success

The structural stability of the earthen embankment and concrete water gate was tested during one of the strongest typhoons that has hit Cambodia in the last 20 years – Typhoon Ketsana – which swept through Southeast Asia in September of 2009. Following the typhoon, the structure was inspected by members of the EWB-NY team, who found no damage. Included in the EWB-NY produced Operations and Maintenance manual, which is kept on site in the community, is a program for regular inspections.

Access to water from the reservoir is free, but farmers are required to sign a contract indicating their compliance with fair water use policies as determined by an elected Board of Officials. These officials also control the water gate to set the water elevation within the reservoir, and adjudicate claims between water users. The Board's twelve members are currently assisting with the on-going community-based canal planning.


Advancing Engineering (AE), born from the experiences in Cambodia working on the Trav Kod reservoir project, is a great example of sustainable infrastructure development. AE was founded by the Cambodia program's former project lead Bryse Gaboury, MSc, PE. Find out more about AE here.

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  • published this page in Past Programs 2016-05-29 17:15:40 -0400