The Ministry of Environment has declared Siem Reap province’s Banteay Srei district a model worthy to be imitated by others due to its beauty, cleanliness and comfort.
The district administration has worked to implement measures to remove rubbish and each village chief in the district is required to encourage their people to regularly collect any rubbish found in public places.
The ministry recently offered high praise for Banteay Srei residents and the valued service they are providing by using good environmental sanitation practices.
They have made their villages and communities beautiful, clean and comfortable to live in as well as more attractive to tourists, according to the ministry.
Within the district itself, Preah Dak village was regarded as perfect in terms of living conditions, rubbish disposal and infrastructure maintenance.
Banteay Srei district governor Khim Finan has ambitions to further develop the other villages in the district along the same lines as Preah Dak.
In an interview with The Post, Finan says: “We want to develop sustainable long-term solutions that can be implemented by the villagers on an ongoing basis without much outside assistance. The work has to be done at the village level by the people who live there in order to succeed.”
To ensure the district’s villages are cleaned regularly, Finan required all village chiefs in Banteay Srei district to spend at least one day per month personally collecting rubbish in public places in order to lead by example.
Residents are also expected to dispose of their own rubbish properly.
“The current goal is to make sure that each community has the ability to manage their rubbish and take responsibility for it while the district administration plays the role of a coordinator, controller and motivator. Cleaning up rubbish benefits the whole community,” Finan says.
The Banteay Srei district administration announced that the 36 villages other than Preah Dak will compete with each other for the title of cleanest village.
Preah Dak village will instead have a competition between its own residents for the title of cleanest house. Both competitions will grant rewards to the winners to encourage the residents’ efforts.
“Right now the villagers are all on board with the clean-up plans and we want to keep these extra efforts going. Normally, however, all the villagers would be required to do is dispose of their own rubbish properly each month,” Finan says.
He says Banteay Srei village and five other villages in Preah Dak commune will be fixed up and thoroughly cleaned early this year to the same high standards that Preah Dak village has established.
Finan worries that a more stubborn problem could prove to be changing people’s attitudes and habits related to how they deal with their own personal rubbish long term so that organised clean-up drives like this one won’t need to be repeated frequently.
Khnar village chief In Seang tells The Post that the real goal for his village is to boost local economic development and that the Khnar residents were determined and hopeful that their village will win the competition over the other villages.
He says each village faces issues related to employment and job skills and the villages all lack the budgetary resources required to fully engage in development plans, though he agrees that having the active participation of the villagers in improving their community was important.
“I try to set an example for the people here to follow. I’m trying to encourage them to use larger size sacks and bins to manage their household rubbish rather than leaving it loose in piles or using a lot of smaller bags. I also ask my villagers to volunteer in groups to go collect rubbish,” he said.
Seang says although his village isn’t quite as impressive as Preah Dak yet, the clean-up efforts had made a difference so far and that the awareness campaign was helping too – he has noticed a reduction in the amount of new rubbish being dumped in public areas.
There is also increased attention to detail on the part of the villagers in the maintenance of village infrastructure like houses, gardens and flower beds, he notes.
Sun Hoeurn, a 33-year-old handicraft vendor who sells her wares near the roadside in Preah Dak village, tells The Post that everything in the village is neat and orderly now.
She says tourists who pass through the village are far more likely to stop and look at her and the other vendors’ wares because the village feels more welcoming to them, whereas in the past they wouldn’t want to linger long enough to do any shopping.
“We are happy that the [district leaders] have renovated our village. They cleaned the roads and even planted beautiful flower beds around our houses. When there is a festival, a lot of people visit the district. They come to eat noodles and they buy this or that from us,” she says.
Yort Trob, a 62-year-old villager whose house in Preah Dak village has been spiffed up by the addition of a flower garden, tells The Post that as a more senior resident of the village and a grandmother, she takes pride in the upkeep of her home and that the community has increased their admiration and respect for such things.
She says the positive changes to the village didn’t take place instantly but really came about as the result of a change in their attitudes, which took time. Good leadership was also important, she feels.
Trob tries her utmost to be a model villager now that she is living in a model village and she hopes that other people across the country will follow the example set by Preah Dak village and start changing their attitudes in order to build beautiful communities that they can take pride in.
“Nice clean houses give their owners a good reputation and [once the houses have all been fixed up] that in turn gives the villages, communes, and districts a good reputation as well. And then when international groups or tourists come to visit there, they praise them and their reputation grows even greater. But it all starts with making your home a model one by [doing the small things like] sweeping them clean and planting flowers,” Trob says.