Thirty-hectare landfill located near Choeung Ek killing fields
replaces iconic Stung Meanchey and displaces scavengers
THE capital's new 30-hectare dumpsite located near the Choeung Ek killing fields received its first truckloads of trash at 8am Monday morning during a ceremony that drew more than 20 municipal officials.
Phnom Penh Deputy Governor Chreang Sophan said the day was significant because it marked both the opening of the new site, located 15 kilometres outside central Phnom Penh, and the closing of Stung Meanchey, the 44-year-old dump that had in recent years become an icon of international poverty.
"Today, we open the new dump, and - just as important - we close the old dump," he said in an interview.
Svay Lorn, the former chief of Stung Meanchey who will become chief at the new site, said the new dump would be able to process just as much waste as the old one did - roughly 1,000 tonnes of trash from the capital each day.
Drawing a distinction from Stung Meanchey, where trash has been piled aboveground, he said staff at the new site would bury the trash in order to cut down on the smell.
"Every time we reach 2,000 tonnes, we will bury the trash at once in order to smother the smell," he said.
Chreang Sophan highlighted another quality that set the new site apart from Stung Meanchey: no scavengers.
"We will not allow the scavengers to work here and even if we did, they wouldn't have any garbage to collect because we will bury it every two days," he said.
Phymean Noun, the director of the People Improvement Organisation, a local NGO, estimated in a recent interview that Stung Meanchey was the main source of income for about 1,000 families.
Chan Sokkhoeun, a 50-year-old scavenger, said Sunday that her family had "depended" on income earned from the site since 1992.
"I could earn anything from 8,000 riels (roughly US$2) per day to 10,000 riels per day, but I will not earn this anymore," she said. "I really don't want them to move the dump to another place, but I cannot forbid them."
From trash to gas
City Hall announced in April that it had approved a proposal from a German company to convert waste from Stung Meanchey into methane gas.
Detlef Gutjahr, a representative from the International Environmental Consulting Company, said at the time that the company was committed to processing the waste for the next 15 years.