The Ministry of Environment has instructed the Phnom Penh and provincial authorities to tackle air pollution by taking measures to prevent forest fires, the burning of solid waste, the burning of construction waste and burning at landfills.
The ministry is concerned about the air quality in Cambodia, which has been on the decline. Air pollution is harmful to both human health and the environment, it said.
In a December 8 letter addressed to the Phnom Penh municipal and provincial governors and seen by The Post on December 13, the ministry said that at the beginning of the dry season every year, especially during December to April, the air quality condition deteriorates alarmingly.
This is especially true regarding an increase in the concentration of inert particles floating in the air, known as PM10 and PM2.5, which are known to be harmful to human health.
The PM stands for particulate matter and the numbers denote particulate matter that is 10 micrometres or smaller and particulate matter that is 2.5 micrometres or smaller. Both are inhalable. For reference, a human hair is on average about 70 micrometres.
The amount of both PM10 and PM2.5 in Phnom Penh’s air is above the limits established as safety standards, and this poses a risk to people’s health and the environment.
The letter added that through the survey they had determined that the main sources and activities that caused the increase in the concentration of inert particles included emissions from industrial operations, vehicles using diesel fuel, wild forest fires, the burning of agricultural waste, the controlled burning of grass and forests for agriculture, the burning of solid waste at landfills and dust from construction sites.
The letter urged municipal and provincial governors to aid in the dissemination of information to the public about measures they can take to prevent forest fires and to try to curtail the practice of controlled burning for agriculture and the burning of agricultural waste and landfill waste.
Governors are also encouraged to employ measures to prevent dust from construction sites and improve road conditions to help reduce the amount of dust from roads and in public places.
The ministry stressed that they must educate people to no longer burn rubbish or solid waste and to stop burning grass and burning other agricultural waste.
Furthermore, all streets and public spaces should be cleaned regularly and authorities at all levels should be prepared to put out fires in case of any unexpected wildfires.
Preah Sihanouk Provincial Hall spokesman Kheang Phearum said on December 13 that the provincial hall had received the letter. He said the provincial governor would schedule a meeting to disseminate the contents of the letter to all relevant authorities.
“I think the prevention of air pollution is very important to the people and the environment, and we are all ready to participate in solving these problems. So we have to consider it as an important issue, and officials at all levels must pay close attention, especially to inform the people so that they understand that what they do today to stop pollution may keep them safe and healthy tomorrow,” he said.
Heng Yon Kora, executive director of the Community Sanitation and Recycling Organisation (CSARO), said on December 13 that forest fires and burning waste both cause many environmental problems, especially air pollution. Therefore, this issue requires both vigilance against unintentional forest fires and the public in general understanding that they must no longer burn their waste to dispose of it.
He added that officials must act as role models to demonstrate a wide range of outreach activities so that the public will be prepared to put out any fires in a timely manner.
“Our authorities have to work actively in the local community because most of the local people burn their rubbish when they have no place to dump it. And some factories should find ways to reduce the smoke they release into the air.
“As for the waste, if we pile it up in the same place for years it can actually catch fire underground on its own, so we need to ask ourselves what should be done to prevent this from happening again,” he said.