For the last 15 years, GRET has been providing support for the professionalization of drinking water services in small towns in Cambodia and Laos. With a view to strengthening collaboration between professionals in the South-East Asia region, GRET organised a week of workshops from 16 to 20 November 2015 to reflect on the innovations made in water supply in small towns with populations ranging from 1,000 to 20,000: creation of a dedicated centre to support ISEA water operators in Cambodia, public-private partnership approach in Laos (Mirep).
On 19 and 20 November 2015, the first Water conference for small private operators, organised by the Cambodian Water Association (CWA) with GRET and the World Bank’s Water and Sanitation Programme (WSP), brought together approximately one hundred participants, most of them water companies. Cham Prasidh, the Minister for Industry and Crafts, was in attendance. The conference – which featured plenary sessions, side events and material supplier stands – aimed to promote networking, new technologies for treating and measuring the quality of water or automation of stations. It was an opportunity to present recent developments in the sector in terms of regulation, technical standards, and social & economic performance. During one side event, seven water operators from Laos presented feedback on their work and the challenges they face. They also made two field trips to sites on the outskirts of Phnom Penh on 21 November, which gave them an opportunity to speak directly with Cambodian water operators and understand the specific features of the local context.
This week-long conference made it possible to present Isea, the Cambodian services centre for small and medium water operators, created by GRET in 2012, and institutionalised in 2016. Isea was created with support from Find and the Fonds Suez initiatives. In the space of three years, it obtained over 30 contracts with private operators, positioned itself on a new market and created a diverse service offering including professional services in the area of moderation, training, technical assistance, banking, and sizing & construction of sustainable quality infrastructures. On 20 November 2015, a dedicated workshop, co-organised with the WSP, and attended by approximately fifty people, highlighted the initial findings of this experience, from which 400 existing small and medium water operators in Cambodia can potentially benefit. The issues and challenges met by these organisations supporting private companies were discussed with experts from other countries (experiences in Africa and the sub-region, Laos and Cambodia) and discussions were held on the economic model of these organisations, their promotion and their development in other contexts, e.g. in rural areas. With 15 years of experience in the sector in Cambodia and the support of GRET, Isea is now continuing its development independently.