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Trash pickers to get land in Kandal

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Municipal authorities say they plan to build a new community for scavengers who will find themselves homeless after authorities close the Stung Meanchey dump at the end of the year

MAY TITTHARA

A young Stung Meanchey rubbish collector sits with her family at a meeting with the municipality Wednesday.

GARBAGE collectors evicted from Stung Meanchey dump after the landfill is closed will be relocated to Kandal province under a plan to loan them small plots of land, Phnom Penh authorities say.

Municipal authorities have announced plans to close Stung Meanchey, which opened in 1962 as Phnom Penh's main dump site, calling it a blight on the rapidly-expanding capital.

The dump has swollen to a 17-acre expanse of smoking, decomposing trash, but remains a source of income for thousands of trash scavengers.

Two communities that include some 2,300 people - Damnak Thom and Toul Sen Chey - will be moved in November from their current location in and around the dump to Phsar Dek commune in Kandal province, said Pen Vandoeun, chief of the Damnak Thom community.

"We are helping them move because the people who live here do not own the land," he said.

"They face floods and bad smells from the dump, especially in the rainy season," he added.

He said four hectares was purchased in Kandal using a US$75,000 loan from Phnom Penh municipality. One 4.5m by 12m plot will be awarded to each of the 535 families, who will repay the cost of the land in monthly installments of $8.25 over a three-year period, he said.

"On this land, we will construct houses, a market, school and other infrastructure to help people do business," he said, without specifying how the construction would be funded.

Problems ahead

"The land we have been given is very far away and it is difficult for us to find work there." said La Lin, a trash picker.

But another Stung Meanchey resident saw the move as an improvement. "I have always wanted to own land. I will be happy to live there," said Naroun, 72, a sack collector. "I think the standard of living will be better there," she said.

Phnom Penh Vice Governor Mann Chhoeun, who is also chief of the Urban Poverty Development Fund, said the move was necessary in order to reduce the number of poor living in the city. He added that the city has been relocating thousands of impoverished families since 2005.

"They will have to pay only 1,200 riels per day for the land," he said.

"They can do business there as moto taxi drivers or selling souvenirs to tourists since they will be near Oudong," he added.

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