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Dumpsites to get makover

A man climbs over a mound of waste at Chhoeung Ek dump site
A man climbs over a mound of waste at Chhoeung Ek dump site, on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, in 2013, as he searches for material that can be recycled. Pha Lina

Dumpsites to get makover

The Environment Ministry, along with the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and Phnom Penh Municipal Hall, are slated to launch a new regional project today that aims improve waste management and minimise open burning practices across Cambodia.

The five-year project, which is a response to the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, will introduce proper segregation and recycling practices to the public in order to avoid open burning and the spread of harmful compounds that are destructive to the environment, said UNIDO head Sok Narin.

“This plan brings sophisticated practices that will facilitate waste management, including separating, recycling, and transforming waste into gas and natural fertiliser for agricultural and industrial purposes in order to improve the living standard of people and reduce environment contamination,” said ministry spokesman Sao Sopheap.

The Global Environment Fund has earmarked $7.5 million for the project. The funding will be split between five countries: Cambodia, Philippines, Vietnam, Laos and Mongolia.

In Cambodia, the initiative will first be implemented in Phnom Penh’s Choeung Ek dumpsite – the country’s largest garbage site where about 2,000 tonnes of waste is delivered every day.

According to Sopheap, they have found that in most dumpsites, there is no proper separation of decaying and non-decaying wastes and that potentially toxic medical wastes are also included in the mix.

“We will educate everyone with the 3Rs concept – reduce, reuse, recycle – and show the public that there are always materials that could be reduced and recycled so that they can avoid burning everything,” UNIDO’s Narin said.

Apart from educating the public, UNIDO might also provide recycling equipment to specific jurisdictions that need further help with waste management.

“If the 3Rs is understood by everyone, it will definitely have a hugely positive impact in reducing waste from the core,” Narin said. “We still need to do a lot to educate but fortunately, municipalities and the [ministry] have been intensifying their efforts to clean up Cambodia, so we’re on the right track.”

In early March, the government said that it was preparing to set up a $5 million fund to improve urban sanitation across the Kingdom.

Sopheap, of the Environment Ministry, also added that there are plans to either expand the Choeung Ek dumpsite or create a new dumpsite in Phnom Penh to reduce the volume of garbage dumped in the site every day.

“Improper segregation does not only affect the environment but also the health of the people and the nation’s reputation,” Sopheap said. “Only public awareness and full participation in this project can improve the situation.”

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