An abandoned building in Chong Kneas community has been granted a new lease of life after Siem Reap provincial authorities reclaimed it from a private company. The transformed building is located near the waterfront in Chong Kneas commune, Siem Reap city, Siem Reap province, and it has become a plastic waste processing centre for the Chong Kneas community.
The renovation was part of a project to support the community of Chong Kneas commune by implementing the three-year Waste Management and Harvest Plastic Program of the Tonle Sap Lake-based NGO2 Bamboo Shoot Organisation and its partners.
Sea Sophal, president of the NGO2 Bamboo Shoot Organisation, told The Post that in just two days, on November 25-26, a group of students from the Chong Kneas community transformed the old building into an attractive new centre.
“We have repainted the building. Children have drawn pictures that have turned this abandoned building into an educational one, which will provide information to tourists in the area. We will use the grounds of the building to store and sort garbage collected from all over the area,” he said.
Sea Sophal explained that the youth’s hand-painting drawings showed off the biodiversity of the Tonle Sap Lake, provided environmental education and demonstrated the effects of plastic waste. Billboards displaying photographs of environmental clean-up activities were also on display.
“The building is next to the waterfront, surrounded by people’s floating houses. Previously, it was owned by the Xu Jing Company, but later the Siem Reap provincial administration took over. That was when it was decided to redevelop it,” he said.
Sea Sophal said that the building’s repurposing for the benefit of the community is due to cooperation between the authorities at all levels and the community. The centre will contribute in part to keeping the Tonle Sap Lake and its surroundings clean and green.
Lim Boren, a teacher at Chong Kneas Secondary School whose students painted on the walls of the building, said that the artwork was an opportunity for them to express how they feel about environmental issues.
She believed that the paintings will attract the attention of tourists.
“We were concerned about their ability at first, but the art has turned out really well. The illustrations clearly show the damage that plastic bags are doing to the environment and how they are affecting the beauty of our beautiful lake,” she added.
May Mean, a youth in charge of sanitation in the area, expressed his happiness with the authorities for providing the facility to the community.
After renovating the building, he said a working team will decide the types of waste that will be stored for recycling. Part of the building will become an educational space for community volunteers to continue their outreach activities.
“We have set one part aside for waste sorting and recycling. The other will be used to educate people. We will not change people’s mindsets by spreading the word for one or two days. We need a place which is dedicated to educating children. Once their mindset is changed, they will join our movement and lead us in the future,” he added.
The Chong Kneas community is a natural tourist destination. Many visitors travel there each year to watch the beautiful sunsets on the lake and learn about the lives of the people who live in the floating villages. The community, which is 21km from Siem Reap town, has a population of around 1,000 families, 700 of whom live in floating houses.
Chong Kneas commune chief Oum Sary said encouraging people to manage waste correctly is very important to preserving the commune’s natural beauty as a tourist destination. On behalf of the local authorities, he expected the new centre to play a large part in improving the area and its surrounds.
“Now we have to provide the equipment the residents will need to sort the garbage, and establish a monitoring commission. This center will become a central part of our community,” said Sary.
From June to October, local authorities and civil society organisations mobilised the communities in Chong Kneas to collect plastic waste from the river. More than 100 tonnes of plastic waste was retrieved from the area.