Faecal waste products are building up in Cambodia’s urban areas and could potentially cause environmental and health risks, sanitation experts warned yesterday.
NGO GRET conducted a one year study of faecal sludge management in Cambodia’s urban areas and found that development of dumping waterways was causing faecal sludge to become increasingly concentrated.
“Cambodia is draining many wetlands around Phnom Penh and in Phnom Penh, so that you concentrate all the faecal sludge to fewer wetland areas,” GRET project manager Yoann Laurent said at the launch of the NGO’s report yesterday.
“Many people are living around those lakes, growing morning glory in these lakes that we are eating in the restaurants, so treatment, especially in Phnom Penh, is really a question that should emerge in the near future,” he said.
Downstream of the Phnom Penh dumping sites. farmers planted vegetables that supplied about 20 per cent of Phnom Penh’s total demand, states the report.
While access to sanitation has skyrocketed over the past few years, “faecal sludge management is low and problematic”, the report notes.
However, director of the Phnom Penh Municipal Environmental department Chiek Ang said water pollution levels were being monitored by the department and the Ministry of Environment and were not deemed harmful, but added that government studies on the environmental impact of urban development might be conducted in the future.
GRET’s Laurent said that the environmental impact of urbanisation tended to be overlooked.
“People tend to forget that urbanisation is ongoing in Cambodia, and this would be an emerging question – when people have access to a latrine, what do we do with the sludge produced?” Laurent said.
GRET found that despite a high access to latrines, the proportion of households that emptied their faeces tank was low in urban areas – 21 per cent in Phnom Penh, 14 per cent in Siem Reap and 19 per cent in Kampot.
To contact the reporter on this story: Cassandra Yeap at [email protected]