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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Rubbish ideas from City Hall

A worker hauls a large bag of refuse at the Choeung Ek dump site in Phnom Penh’s Dangkor district
A worker hauls a large bag of refuse at the Choeung Ek dump site in Phnom Penh’s Dangkor district. The overflowing dump, in operation for four years, has prompted complaints from nearby residents. PHA LINA

Rubbish ideas from City Hall

Tardy trash collection in the wake of Sunday’s national election and a nearly overflowing dump inspired Phnom Penh municipal governor Pa Socheatvong to call for a strategy session among city officials.

The Choeung Ek dump in Dangkor district was cause for serious concern during the meeting. Purchased for seven million dollars early last decade, the landfill took five years to prepare and is already on the brink of overflowing.

Dangkor district chief Nut Padara declined to comment when reached by the Post.

Speaking at the meeting, Socheatvong tasked officials with finding a new location.

The smell emanating from the landfill has become so terrible there is little recourse beyond site relocation, preferably where the smell would be less disagreeable to residents, the governor said,

“Now, Choeung Ek dump is completely filled, making a terrible smell for the residents who live nearby,” he said.

Opened in 2009, the nine-metre-deep dumpsite was designed to replace the Stung Meanchey landfill.

Svay Lorn, the former chief of Stung Meanchey, has said the site is capable of processing 1,000 tonnes of trash from the capital each day.

A national holiday following Election Day was also blamed for slow refuse retrieval in Phnom Penh, a potential embarrassment for a governor who spent June 26 lauding 1,100 of CINTRI’s waste collection workers at City Hall, publicly emphasising the importance of sanitation services leading up to the election.

Phnom Penh’s population has doubled to more than two million since 1998, increasing pressure on an already-weak sanitation system.

“It is not a small problem,” Socheatvong said. “It affects residents’ houses and the city environment. Rubbish is kept a lot at in the middle of the street and smell[s] bad, also affecting city drainage,” he said.

Seng Savt, a director at CINTRI, said trash retrieval was late because of broken trucks and vacationing staff, but also put a large chunk of the blame back on city residents.

According to Savt, “residents did not prepare rubbish in [the] right way”.

Still, despite several trucks being out of commission, “the company always ordered the staff to [retrieve trash] well”, he added.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY AMELIA WOODSIDE

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