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‘Fines and force of 300’ to tackle Water Festival trash

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Workers prepare a float for Water Festival in front of the Royal Palace on Tuesday. Measures are in place to tackle the problem of waste as visitors throng to the capital for the three-day event. Hong Menea

‘Fines and force of 300’ to tackle Water Festival trash

Following public criticism of fast-accumulating rubbish during previous Water Festivals, the Ministry of Environment has announced fines for those who litter at this year’s event, while some 300 officials and volunteers will be deployed to tackle the trash problem.

Additionally, Cintri, the waste management company charged with dealing with the capital’s refuse, has said it is prepared for 300 tonnes of rubbish a day while predicting there will be up to 100 to 150 tonnes during the period.

“The Ministry of Environment and Phnom Penh Municipal Hall will have 300 of volunteers and officials to educate vendors and people to wrap and leave their waste properly in trash bins deployed by the authorities in many locations during the three-day Water Festival,” Ministry of Environment spokesman Neth Pheaktra told The Post on Tuesday.

According to Article 42 of a joint sub-decree on “Solid Waste Management in the City”, members of the public who litter public places or prohibited areas will be fined 20,000 riel.

This will be doubled for repeat offenders, while for vendors, it will be 50,000 riel ($12.50) and 150,000 ($37.50) for those who dump rubbish from their homes or businesses.

Pheaktra said the ministry and Phnom Penh Municipal authorities would be paying extra attention to the sanitation and appearance of Phnom Penh during this year’s Water Festival, for which tens of thousands are expected to throng to the capital.

He said the Phnom Penh Environmental Department will have 300 volunteers from the Union of Youth Federations of Cambodia and officials to inform people of the impact waste has on the environment.

Pheaktra said environment and other relevant officials will be on duty and if they find filled-up trash bins, Cintri will be called to dispose of them.

Maintaining a clean environment is the obligation of all, he said, and those ignoring their responsibility will face legal penalties.

“People participating in the Water Festival should wrap and leave their waste properly. We will first educate them, and if we find serious pollution, penalties will be applied,” Pheaktra said.

Khieu Vuthy of Cintri said that for this year’s Water Festival, the company will deploy 45 trucks, 100 carts, 1,020 baskets and 474 rubbish collectors in order to dispose of waste, which he claimed might amount to 100-150 tonnes per day.

“We are prepared to collect over 300 tonnes of waste. [To do this] we will quicken our collections. In [previous Water Festivals] we collected rubbish every six to seven hours, but now we will do so every two to three hours [based on our] experiences over the years.

“We can implement that smoothly, but we need [to be able to] easily collect the waste,” he said.

Vuthy said to ease waste collection, the relevant institutions needed to inform the public of the new system. He said that because of the Ministry of Environment’s and other authorities’ involvement, the waste collection would be more effective.

“People and vendors have to dispose of their waste carefully and avoid littering outside trash bins .  .  . we are expecting about 30 per cent more people and waste than last year,” he said.

To public outcry, a video circulated on social media after 2016’s Water Festival purportedly showing some cleaning crews sweeping trash directly into the Tonle Sap river.

Phnom Penh Municipality spokesman Met Meas Pheakdey told The Post on Tuesday that there would be nearly 300 boats and 20,000 crew members at this year’s festival.

“I would like to inform the public not to worry about security issues because the committee has prepared detailed plans for each area, all of which serve to provide satisfaction and security,” he said.

However, Meas Pheakdey said the number of security personnel and police to be employed could not yet be revealed for security reasons.

National Police chief Neth Savoeun also told The Post on Tuesday that security teams, including police, Military Police and the army, were well prepared for the task ahead. But he declined to reveal the exact numbers to be deployed.

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