Vaico Irrigation Development Project (VID)

The right-hand branch of the Chinese-built main canal in Sithor Kandal district, after some new water had entered it from Beung Kapik, following a backflow event from the Mekong - Photo by David Blake for Mekong Eye

Vaico Irrigation Development Project (VID)

This research reflects information available up until June 2021, it may not reflect developments after the date of assessment.

The Vaico Irrigation Development Project is the largest investment in Cambodia’s agricultural sector to date. It consists of a series of irrigation and drainage canals, sluices, bridges, and culverts connecting farmland in the eastern Cambodian provinces of Kampong Cham, Prey Veng, and Svay Rieng to the Mekong River. Conducted in two phases, one complete and one nearly complete, the project’s budget amounts to US$192,954,032 in total and stands as the largest irrigation project ever undertaken in Cambodia. It aims to irrigate hundreds of hectares of rice paddies in eastern Cambodia, increasing stability in a sector that confronts variable weather patterns in the face of climate change and other risks while striving to alleviate poverty and hunger. The project is being constructed by Guangdong Foreign Construction Co., Ltd. (GDFC), a Chinese engineering firm, and overseen by the Chinese consulting firm Guangzhou Wanan Construction Supervision Co., Ltd. (GWCSC).

Project Background

The Council for the Development of Cambodia’s (CDC) Official Development Assistance (ODA) database report states Phase I of the project was approved and initiated on February 2, 2012. A concessional loan from China’s EXIM Bank was also signed on February 2, 2012 for an extension of National Road 76, with the value of the contract variously reported as US$89,273,400 by the CDC and US$91,680,000 by the Ministry of Public Works and Transport (MPWT). It is hypothesized that this loan agreement is related to the Vaico Irrigation project. Phase I, which consisted of US$99,303,000 of investment, took place over five years and was completed in 2017. This initial phase restored 13 km of old irrigation canals between Koh Sotin district in Kampong Cham and Sithor Kandal district in Prey Veng and 27 km of canals between the Prey Veng districts of Sithor Kandal and Kamchay Mea. In addition, another 78 km of canals were constructed to connect the Ta Douk commune to the Mesang district and the Svay Chikray commune to the Sithor Kandal district within Prey Veng.

Phase II includes two components. Part I consists of the construction of canals through Svay Rieng and Prey Veng, while Part II will initiate an economic and technical cooperation initiative initially expected to extend to all three provinces included in the project: Kampong Cham, Prey Veng, and Svay Rieng. However, a February 2021 update noted that the scope of Part II, the economic and technical cooperation initiative, had narrowed to just Prey Veng and Svay Rieng. Parts I and II of Phase II were planned for completion by the end of 2019, per a November 2019 update accessed December 2020, but as of a February 24, 2021 update to the Council for the Development of Cambodia (CDC) database, they are now predicted to wrap up by the end of December 2021.

Guangzhou Wanan Construction Supervision Co., Ltd. (GWCSC) is a private Chinese firm established in 1995. It is under the supervision of the China Association of Engineering Consultants (CAEC). GWCSC contracted Guangdong Foreign Construction Co., Ltd. (GDFC) to carry out the irrigation project’s construction. GDFC registered as a foreign company branch with Cambodia’s Ministry of Commerce Business Registration Department on July 14, 2017, and has worked on irrigation projects across the country, including in Battambang, Kampong Trabek, Kampot, Pursat, and Siem Reap provinces.

Project Feasibility, Transparency, and Social and Environmental Ramifications

The most significant issue with the project is its feasibility, as various reports point to the irrigation project’s ineffectiveness. Reporting in 2016 stated that the main canals of the project were bone dry. At the time, a village resident explained that the project only supplied water during the wet season and thus the double season cropping objective of the project was impossible. Additionally, in July 2018 at the peak of the wet season, the water level of the main canals was described as too low to be effective. Rather than supplying irrigation, the canals were mainly serving as drainage from adjacent fields. Other than a few farmers using tractor pumps to pump water from the canal to their fields via plastic piping, the fields surrounding the canals remained effectively rainfed.

 

Non-competitive procurement

According to the official report published in The Council for Development of Cambodia’s (CDC) Official Development Assistance (ODA) Database, the Vaico Irrigation Project did not follow the government’s procurement plan. However, as Cambodia has no specific laws for development assistance or aid projects, such does not violate any laws. Thus, we cannot determine whether the default (government) procurement process encourages local and civil participation. An existing national framework for development assistance or aid projects, Development Cooperation and Partnerships Strategy is largely guided by the Millennium and Sustainable Development Goals (MDGs and SDGs) and the Kingdom’s national overarching framework for social, economic, and political development, the Rectangular Strategy. One of its objectives is to include all development actors in policy dialogues and utilize global and regional mechanisms to increase the effectiveness of partnerships.

However, China was not alone in its disuse of the government’s procurement system. In fact, of the 8 other development partners reviewed beyond China, only the World Bank and ADB used Cambodia’s procurement system over 50 percent of the time. Although the use of the government’s procurement system is increasing, as of 2019, only 61 percent of development partners use the system. Moreover, it is unclear what the Royal Government of Cambodia’s procurement system entails, so it remains unknown whether it is effective even when used.

Average Transparency Score:
2.79/6

To capture different practices, quality and level of transparency, researchers are asked to answer six related questions for each data point. 1 point is assigned for each question to which the answer is “yes.” Each data point therefore has a total score between 0 and 6, where “0” means no information was publicly available at the time of research (not transparent) and “6” means full transparency.

  • Not Transparent
  • Transparent
Project & Contract Phase Project Information Score Response Link to Information
Project Identification Project owner Agreement signed by the Ministry of Economy and Finance (MEF)
Implementing Agency: Ministry of Water Resources & Meteorology
Technical Working Group: Infrastructure Regional Integration (Phase I); Agriculture and Water (Phase II, both parts).
http://odacambodia.com/
Sector, subsector Sector: Agriculture
Sub-Sector: Agriculture, water, and irrigation
Cross-cutting thematic marker (listed for Phase II, both parts): Climate Change
http://odacambodia.com/
Project name

Vaico Irrigation Development Project Phase I

Vaico Irrigation Development Project Phase II

Vaico Irrigation Development Project Phase II (Economic & Technical Integration)

http://odacambodia.com/
Project Location Phase I:
Kampong Cham: 30%
Prey Veng: 70%

Phase II:
Svay Rieng: 50%
Prey Veng: 50%

http://odacambodia.com/
Purpose

Phase I: Not listed

Phase II: Demarcated as having moderate contribution to climate change resilience efforts. Also categorized as designed to contribute to Cambodia’s progress towards their SDG of “Zero Hunger” and “Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure.”

http://odacambodia.com/
Project description

The largest irrigation project ever developed in Cambodia, through a Cambodia and Chinese partnership. Conducted in two phases, for a total price tag of 200 million, the project will irrigate over 300,000 acres of farmland in Kampong Cham, Prey Veng and Svey Rieng provinces.

Beginning in 2013, (one press release says January, the other says March) the project is overseen by Guangzhou Wanan Construction Supervision Co., Ltd. and constructed by Guangdong Foreign Construction Co., Ltd. It aims to provide irrigation security to further the agriculture sector and alleviate hunger and poverty.

http://www.gdfc.cc/en/news.aspx?info_id=454&info_kind=3
Project Preparation Project Scope (main output)

Phase I: Construction of irrigation canals, 30% in Kampong Cham, 70% in Prey Veng.

Phase II: Construction of canals and an economic and technical cooperation initiative in Svay Rieng and Prey Veng provinces.

http://odacambodia.com/
Environmental impact During the website’s latest update, no information was available publicly.
Land and settlement impact During the website’s latest update, no information was available publicly.
Contact details Chinese Embassy is denoted as responsible for filling out update reports on the ODA database. Their address is listed on the report: #156, Mao Tse Toung Blvd, Phnom Penh
Funding sources Export-Import Bank of China (EXIM) https://china.aiddata.org/projects/39178
Project Budget Phase I:
USD 99,303,000
Phase II, Part I:
USD 58,531,889
Phase II, Part II:
USD 35,119,143
http://odacambodia.com/
Project budget approval date Phase I: February 12th, 2012
Phase II: October 13th, 2016
http://odacambodia.com/
Project Completion Project status (current) Phase I: Completed February 2nd, 2017
Phase II: Expected completion December 31st, 2021
http://odacambodia.com/
Completion cost (projected) Phase I:
USD 99,303,000
Phase II, Part I:
USD 58,531,889
Phase II, Part II:
USD 35,119,143
http://odacambodia.com/
Completion date (projected) Phase I: Completed February 2nd, 2017
Phase II: Expected completion December 31st, 2021
http://odacambodia.com/
Scope at completion Projected:
Phase I: USD 99,303,000
Phase II, Part I: USD 91,746,813
Phase II, Part II: USD 35,119,143

Phase I: Completion in 2017
Phase II: Completion at the end of 2019

Actual:
Phase I: USD 99,303,000
Phase II, Part I: USD 58,531,889
Phase II, Part II: USD 35,119,143

Phase I: Completion in 2017
Phase II: Completion at the end of 2021

http://odacambodia.com/
Reasons for project changes During the website’s latest update, no information was available publicly.
Reference to audit and evaluation reports During the website’s latest update, no information was available publicly.
Procurement Procuring entity Cambodia’s Ministry of Economy and Finance (MEF) http://odacambodia.com/
Procuring entity contact details Street 92, Sangkat Wat Phnom, Khan Daun Penh, Phnom Penh https://mef.gov.kh/
Procurement process Did not use the government’s procurement system http://odacambodia.com/
Contract type

Consultant: Guangzhou Wanan Construction Supervision Co., Ltd. (GWCSC)

Contractor: Guangdong Foreign Construction Co., Ltd. (GDFC)

http://www.gdfc.cc/en/news.aspx?info_id=454&info_kind=3
Contract status (current) Closed (unconfirmed) http://www.gdfc.cc/en/news.aspx?info_id=454&info_kind=4
Number of firms tendering During the website’s latest update, no information was available publicly.
Cost estimate During the website’s latest update, no information was available publicly.
Contract administration entity

Consultant: Guangzhou Wanan

Construction Supervision Co., Ltd. (GWCSC)
Contractor: Guangdong Foreign Construction Co., Ltd. (GDFC)

http://www.gdfc.cc/en/news.aspx?info_id=454&info_kind=3
Contract title During the website’s latest update, no information was available publicly.
Contract firm(s)

Consultant: Guangzhou Wanan Construction Supervision Co., Ltd. (GWCSC)

Contractor: Guangdong Foreign Construction Co., Ltd. (GDFC)

http://www.gdfc.cc/en/news.aspx?info_id=454&info_kind=3
Contract price During the website’s latest update, no information was available publicly.
Contract scope of work

Phase I: Construction of irrigation canals, 30% in Kampong Cham, 70% in Prey Veng.

Phase II: Construction of canals and an economic and technical cooperation initiative in Svay Rieng and Prey Veng provinces.

http://odacambodia.com/
Contract start date and duration Phase I:
Approval Date: February 2nd, 2012
Start Date: February 2nd, 2012
Completion Date: February 2nd, 2017
Weeks between start and finish: 261

Phase II:
Approval Date: October 13th, 2016
Start Date: November 1st, 2016
Predicted Completion Date: December 31st, 2019
Weeks between start and original completion date: 164

Revised Predicted Completion Date: December 31st, 2021
Weeks between start and revised completion date: 268

http://odacambodia.com/
Implementation Variation to contract price Phase II, Part I:
Price decreased from a listed USD 91,746,813 in February 2021, to USD 58,531,889 in April 2021.
http://odacambodia.com/
Escalation of contract price During the website’s latest update, no information was available publicly.
Variation to contract duration During the website’s latest update, no information was available publicly.
Variation to contract scope During the website’s latest update, no information was available publicly.
Reasons for price changes During the website’s latest update, no information was available publicly.
Reasons for scope & duration changes During the website’s latest update, no information was available publicly.

 

The Vaico Irrigation Development Project