The government will set up a $5 million fund to allow Cambodia’s 26 provinces and municipalities to take responsibility for waste management in their cities, it was announced recently.
With a focus on garbage management, the decentralisation initiative, revealed at a two-day workshop in Phnom Penh late last week, will for the first time outline responsibilities for waste management at the city level.
Ministry of Environment spokesman Sao Sopheap said the idea was to empower cities to tackle the growing social, health and environmental consequences of poor sanitation.
“We are facing a real challenge and big problems with garbage management throughout the country,” Sopheap said.
“People are getting troubled with the inadequate service of garbage management; the government realises there is a need for public investment.”
Sopheap said although the first round of funding was earmarked for garbage collection, the program, if successful, would expand next year to include sewage management.
He added, however, that cities, particularly on the coast, could apply to use their cash for sewage or water management.
With funds from the program, which is coordinated by the ministries of Environment, Interior and Economy and Finance, municipalities will be able to develop strategies for improving garbage management.
They will also be given power to decide on contracts with collection companies and will receive technical support from the Ministry of Environment.
“This is a very significant step,” said Jon Morales, program manager for the Asia Foundation’s Urban Services Program in Cambodia.
“In the past, sub-national governments have really depended on the individual proactiveness of administrations; now, this gives them the legal framework and legal basis to act.”
By clearly delineating responsibilities, Morales said the program would address municipalities who had outsourced garbage collection and washed their hands of their duty to ensure good service.
“Just because you’ve outsourced the collection, doesn’t mean you’ve outsourced waste management services like evaluating performance, fielding complaints and being the go between for the collectors and the populace,” he said.
The program does not cover Phnom Penh, which is separately reviewing its contract with waste management company Cintri amid criticism of the firm’s performance.
Phnom Penh Deputy Governor Aunny Ieng said the city has yet to choose a company to build a much-needed incinerator at the city’s dump site, which, at the current rate of dumping, is likely to reach capacity within five years.