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Officials kick up stink over waste in S'ville

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Tourists walk along Ochheuteal beach in Preah Sihanouk province’s Sihanoukville town in February.

A slick of dirty, black waste water that business owners and villagers in Sihanoukville have said stinks and is scaring off tourists has prompted local officials to call an emergency meeting today to resolve the “environmental crisis”.

Prak Visal, deputy director of the Preah Sihanouk administration office, said yesterday that he had originally suspected that the roughly one-square-kilometre slick of waste water near Otres and Ochheuteal beaches had come from the nearby Angkor Beer factory, however investigations had proved this not to be the case.

Sewage from local businesses that had accumulated in unofficial disposal canals and tributaries, he said, was the real culprit, and would require immediate pumping as ordered by Provincial Governor Sboang Sarath.

“We cannot allow the waste to destroy our beautiful coastal province. We must to take it out in a hurry,” he said.

About 70 percent of the town, he said, had yet to connect to a US$11 million sewage treatment plant financed by the Asian Development Bank that was completed in 2006.

“The worst liquid and waste substances flow from factories, handicraft [shops], hotels, restaurants and some villagers’ homes,” he said.

Sbaong Sarath said yesterday that anyone who failed to connect to the plant would be fined.

Sothea Ros, a local spokeswoman for the Asian Development Bank, said in an email last week that the treatment plant was capable of servicing all businesses in the area, provided development continues at forecasted rates, with a processing capacity of 5,700 cubic metres per day.

She added, however, that many people had been reluctant to connect to the plant because they didn’t want to pay service fees.

“The general public in Cambodia has not been accustomed to paying for sewerage services, but this system needs to be introduced and implemented,” she said, adding that untreated waste would cause waterborne diseases.

Prak Visal said monthly service fees ranged from between 3,500 and 10,000 riel (US$0.86 and $2.45) per month, depending on the size of one’s property, adding that connection fees would no longer be charged.

Sothea Ros said yesterday that connection fees had ranged from about $20 to $50 in the past four years, though she did not have current figures.

Henrik Andersen, manager of Carlsberg Indochina, which has a 50 percent stake in Angkor Beer manufacturer Cambrew, said in an email that all waste at their Sihanoukville factory was treated on-site before being sent to the treatment plant.

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