Nearly a month after the Ministry of Environment asked Phnom Penh City Hall to stop villagers in Chbar Ampov district from disposing their trash in the Tonle Sap river, residents yesterday said no one had yet come to clean the area or end the practice.
Yors Run, who only moved into a house in Derm Sleng village three days ago, said he took the matter into his own hands yesterday by instructing a neighbour who owns a tractor to push the rubbish down toward the river because the smell was “very bad”.
Part of the riverside dump area, which had until then been covered with a 12-by-10-metre pile of steaming rubbish, was cleared, but the trash ended up instead spilling down directly into the river.
In the middle of the recently cleared area stood a sign bearing the names of the Interior Ministry and Environment Ministry. It informs illegal dumpers that leaving trash at the site would lead to a fine of up to $25 – if they are ever caught.
Residents said the sign was installed by the authorities a year ago but had collapsed. Run, the new resident and a former low-level military official, had changed that. “When the rubbish was cleared, I mended the sign so people won’t pour rubbish again,” he said.
Chhoun Srey Leak, a 22-year-old resident of Derm Sleng, said that no officials have yet come to inspect the site or to tell villagers to halt the practice of disposing trash into the river. Villagers were still using the river as a dumping site as of yesterday, she said, adding that residents feel neglected by the municipality because it had failed to provide the village with any trash collection services.
“They just don’t care about it because it has been there for so many years,” the resident said of the rotting trash. “It is a necessity that the Ministry of Environment take action, because we need the water . . . and when we throw the trash into the water it becomes very dirty and we cannot use it.”
Phnom Penh Waste Management Office official Noun Samnavuth declined to comment yesterday. Chheun Sothun, deputy chief of Phnom Penh’s environment department, claimed his officials had in fact worked with the city’s trash collection firm, Cintri, to remove garbage from the riverbank.
Yet Cintri manager Ith Chenda acknowledged no one had yet gone to clean up the site, and blamed a lack of proper roads and infrastructure in the Derm Sleng area. “We did not go to collect [the trash],” he said. “So the trash is where it used to be.”
Sothun said Cintri and the district authorities had only on Wednesday signed a new trash collection schedule for the city but that Cintri’s rubbish trucks will still not reach the beleaguered area. Instead, they will inform residents of nearby trash dumping sites, he said.
He added that the commune would send officials to educate people not to throw their trash into the river. Environment Minister Say Samal said that his ministry’s officials were still discussing the issue and working with city officials to find a long-term sustainable solution.
“I think it’s better to work together rather than to point the finger,” the minister added.