After an environmental and public relations debacle during last year’s Water Festival – in which city cleaning crews were filmed sweeping piles of trash into the Tonle Sap river – officials have warned workers to properly dispose of the trash and have embarked on a public education campaign about littering.
Met Measpheakdey, spokesman for Phnom Penh City Hall, said municipal officials had already educated staff and volunteers about how to properly clean up rubbish.
“We tried to educate them already about this [issue], but we are still concerned about how they will do their jobs,” he said. “We hope the bad situation [from last year] will not happen again.”
However, with some 3 million people expected to attend, officials say they are also urging festivalgoers to dispose of trash properly.
Measpheakdey said the city, along with waste disposal company Cintri, will deploy a total of 860 people to clean up, and 2,000 trash bins will be placed throughout the riverside area – almost double the number from last year.
Ith Chanda, Cintri’s operations manager, said his company alone would deploy a team of 580 workers to assist in cleaning during the three days.
Sao Sopheap, spokesman for the Ministry of Environment, said the city was also working closely with the Department of Environment to provide education about environment protection – including reminding attendees not to leave trash behind through a public awareness campaign that will include messages conveyed over loudspeaker.
Va Sim Soriya, spokesman for the Ministry of Public Works and Transport, said he was unsure if trash issues might repeat themselves this year.
“Normally, we face trash everywhere,” he said. “Even for a small ceremony we see trash everywhere and sometimes we can control it, but sometimes can’t.”
According to the Commission for Security for the Water Festival, a total of 12,285 officers will be deployed during the three days of festivities, which begin Thursday. There will also be 59 ambulances on standby, and 12 first-aid posts, said Ngy Meanheng, director of the Department of Health.