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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - 667 tons a day: what a load of rubbish

667 tons a day: what a load of rubbish

Phnom Penh generates 667 tons of waste daily, of which 630 tons are collected and

dumped, or recycled. The rest is unaccounted for and an unknown quantity simply goes

up in smoke.

Stung Meanchey is the city's only dump. It was started 38 years ago and has been

operated in an unregulated manner. It covers only 6.8 hectares, the waste is piled

up more than five meters deep and is threatening houses only 100 meters away, according

to JICA. It is virtually unusable by trucks in wet weather.

The Municipality of Phnom Penh (MPP) is leasing adjoining private land to extend

the dump operation for up to five years while the new Dang Kor landfill is prepared.

The contract allows the fill height to reach 4 meters maximum.

The Stung Meanchey extension is itself a major project, urgently required, and involves

a new access road, a new working face, creation of a demonstration block to train

staff in proper future landfill operation, and construction of an enclosing embankment.

Total estimated cost is $310,000 (allocated from JICA's budget).

One of the most important aspects of this project is the improvement of working conditions

and safety for 2,907 scavengers, or "waste pickers" who live and work at

the dump site.

JICA consultant Junji Anai says: "The waste pickers have an important role in

solid waste management by recovering recyclable materials and reducing waste volume.

However, their activities interfere with [disposal] operations and put their lives

at risk. They are at risk of occupational diseases due to the awful working conditions."

The wastepickers are being registered into a database; they will be vaccinated against

tetanus and hepatitis B, and they will be issued with registration cards which allows

them to become part of the operational plan.

Anai said: "It is urgently required to separate the working area of waste pickers

and the working area of heavy machinery and waste collection vehicles."

As the Dangkor landfill is prepared the Stung Meanchey dump will be progressively

decommissioned. This requires compaction, soil covering, control of leachate (toxic

wastewater from decomposing garbage), and control of gases from the decomposition

process.

JICA says decomposition of the site will continue for more than 20 years after closure.

This means land subsidence, gas explosions and possible underground fires. "Therefore

the site is unfavorable for building foundations; even when the site becomes stable

buildings will need [driven] pile foundations," says the report.

The report recommends the decommissioned municipal-owned dump land should become

a public park. Facilities should be installed to capture the (predominantly methane)

gas and the heat potential use to produce charcoal briquettes.

The private land lease should be extended to retain it under MPP control until risks

of subsidence and gas explosions have ceased. If returned to the owners, use should

be regulated by the MPP to prevent construction of buildings, and avoid accidents

caused by subsidence and gas. JICA recommended this land be used as public park or

golf training area.

JICA also recommends that people living or working near the proposed new landfill

site organize a monitoring committee in cooperation with the Ministry of Environment

and appropriate NGOs to monitor operation of the landfill.

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