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Bright green ideas

Environmental art by Tet Chan

After realising that our impact on the world was getting worse by the day, Leang Seckon, an artist with a passion and affection for the environment, came up with an idea to launch a rubbish project in June 2006, raising people’s awareness by using his artistic skills.
“Only art has the power to make people aware of environmental issues and preserve our world,” he said.

Leng Seckon said his idea was to reuse rubbish by turning it into souvenirs such as clothes, bags, hats and shoes.

Besides souvenirs, he used old plastic to create a 90-metre-long makara (dragon): a million packets of plastic that turned 110 people into an earth-saving dragon.

“The makara danced along the street in Japan, and it was a great success,” he said.

During World Water Festival Day in 2008, Leng Seckon made another 225-metre-long plastic makara in Siem Reap. He explained the message behind the effort: that the dragon could not breathe because the waterway was full of rubbish. “Khmer people in the past respected and believed in the makara because it was regarded as a land and water protector.”

“Now people forget her and she is nearly dead. So we have to save her,” said Leng Seckon, who got the idea when travelling from Siem Reap to Battambang by boat and seeing rubbish floating in waterways.

“I will do my best until people stop throwing rubbish away,” said Leng Seckon “I want to see people separate rubbish tidily or recycle it as useful materials.”

water and energy for the poor by Dara Saoyuth

Many Cambodians rely on the forest and fisheries of Cambodia for their livelihoods, but oftentimes their activities are harmful to the environment. The Cambodia Rural Development Team (CRDT) is one of a number of organisations trying to halt deforestation and the destruction of natural resources. What makes CRDT different from other groups is that it was created by four university graduates from different provinces and backgrounds who share the same concerns about environmental problems.
CRDT was established in 2001 by Or Channy, Hean Pheap, Hang Vong and Sun Mao, who were seniors in the rural development department at Maharashi Vedic University. CRDT’s first project was launched in Kampong Cham province, where they built five water pumps and 15 biodigesters.

Hean Pheap said the idea of establishing this organisation came during a visit to Or Channy’s house in Kampong Cham when they saw that villagers were having problems finding firewood to cook and water to drink. “People in Channy’s village had to go 30 kilometres from their homes to find firewood for cooking and clean water to use in their daily lives,” said Hean Pheap. “I knew how to make biogas cookers and water pumps. We talked together and decided to solve water and firewood shortage problems for the villagers,” he proudly explained.

CRDT’s vision is for “a Cambodia free of poverty and environmental degradation,” and to achieve this vision its mission is “to improve food security, incomes and living standards of subsistence rural communities while supporting environmental conservation throughout Cambodia.”

Helping people save the Kingdom’s elephants by Kim Samath

Cambodia has an estimated 500 wild elephants remaining, thanks largely to Tuy Sereivathana, project manager of the Cambodia Elephant Conservation Group of Flora and Fauna International (FFI). In the 1980s and 1990s, elephants were often killed by humans because of the threat they posed to humans and their crops. But since 2005 there hasn't been one human-related elephant death.
Because of his achievement, he won the Goldman Environmental Prize award, worth US$150,000, and became the first Cambodian civilian to meet US President Barack Obama.“I feel so proud to be the first Cambodian to win this prize,”he said.

A deep love of nature, extensive research and a strong commitment to his work helped Tuy Sereivathana find effective strategies to help save the elephants from being killed. He gave people tools, explained how to use them and asked people to plant crops that elephants can’t eat. These strategies saved elephants but were also cheap and easy to implement for the people.

At first it was difficult to persuade the people not to kill the elephants for destroying their crops and houses. Because Tuy Sereivathana and other members of Cambodia Elephant Conservation Group were patient, flexible and hard working, human-elephant conflicts were solved in a peaceful way.

Touring the country without a drop of gas by Tharum Bun

Three years ago, 21-year-old Thul Rithy, who had no money and had yet to obtain a bachelor’s degree, set out on a journey to see many parts of Cambodia. “I thought, ‘How can I travel around Cambodia if I have no money?’ Well, I have a bicycle,” he wrote in an email interview with Lift.
Thul Rithy enjoyed his trekking and travels so much that 3 years ago he began taking tourists on adventures to explore his home country without consuming a drop of gasoline. “I created my own job and learned how to create more jobs for others who could help me reach my goal,” he said.

Peace and stability have turned Cambodia into a popular tourism spot as millions flock into the Kingdom every year. Thul Rithy hopes youngsters with English language skills and tourism degrees will join him in encouraging bicycle travel.

According to Thul Rithy, it only takes one trip to get hooked on green travel. “I was really amazed with my first trip. I thought, I should do this at least once a year, because it’s fun and a great opportunity to see the world and learn more about myself,” he said.



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