THE government is considering a plan by a United States-based company to build
a $300 million waste incineration plant in Sihanoukville. If accepted, it would be
the first plant of its kind in Cambodia.
The high-technology plant would produce electricity from incinerated hazardous waste,
using plasma technology.
Officials at the Ministry of Environment have confirmed that an application was made
last month by a New York-based company, the Lok Hang Group, to install the incinerator.
However, they said that no decision has yet been taken and technical experts from
the EU as well as the American-based Environmenntal Protection Agency are being asked
Earlier this year, representatives from the company came to Cambodia for talks on
the project with the co-premiers and senior government officials. Ministry officials
said they originally floated proposals to dispose of medical and nuclear waste. Both
were firmly dismissed by the ministry.
"We need to discuss this with experts," said Khieu Muth, director-general
at the Ministry of Environment. "There are many technical issues that need to
be considered - it's a high-technology project and the ministry lacks technical experts.
But we are worried that it could be difficult to control and manage.
"Also, there's the problem of public opinion. People don't like the idea of
waste being shipped to their own country. People are worried about air pollution
and storage of solid waste."
In its letter, the company does not mention the quantities of hazardous waste that
might be involved - but describes the waste as a mixture of fuel and oil residue,
spent batteries and photographic materials.
There are now strict guidelines covering the movement of hazardous wastes and their
disposal. The Basel Convention, signed by more than 100 countries in Malaysia this
February, bans the export of certain hazardous wastes - including mercury, lead,
arsenic, asbestos and dozens more chemicals and substances.
But the convention signatories are mainly from developed nations, including member
states of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Cambodia is
not a signatory to the Convention.
However, shipments of hazardous waste from the US to Cambodia would be affected by