Authorities in Koh Kong province’s Kiri Sakor district – in collaboration with partner organisations – have carried out patrols and educated people and tourists on Koh Sdach, or King Island, on why they should not dispose of rubbish on the beach or in the sea, as both lead to serious environmental impacts and a loss of beauty.

Led by district deputy governor Tuon Ou Ty, the team – alongside the Koh Sdach fishing community, the young scouts and the youth of the Cambodian Red Cross (CRC) – also used boats to collect rubbish at sea and clean up the environment in the district’s Koh Sdach commune and village.

Commune chief Sok Cheng told The Post that district authorities collaborated with the commune to lay out principles of promoting and cleaning up the environment twice a month to raise the public’s awareness of environmental action.

“Because we now have an incinerator and rubbish carts on Koh Sdach, we need to make sure that people understand the problems of waste disposal and sanitation. Before these services were available, some people used the island’s dump site. Certain families, however, threw their rubbish into the ocean,” he said.

He added that district authorities launched the campaign some time ago, but it had been suspended due to Covid-19 restrictions. Since the reopening of the nation, the campaign had been resumed. Less than a month ago, the Ministry of Environment had installed the incinerator.

He said that at present the authorities have not fixed prices for waste collection services, as a private company had agreed to help collect and burn rubbish for two or three months without charging service fees from the public.

“After this period, the authorities will organise it themselves. If a private company enters a bid to take over the operation, the authorities will review it. If there are no company bids, it is the authorities who will provide the service,” he said.

He added that the reason some people disposed of their rubbish in the ocean was because 40 per cent of their homes were on the sea, and public education remained limited. Because many of them are employed full-time as fishermen, when the campaign on environmental sanitation was launched, they were unable to attend. In the future, authorities will visit people in their homes and invite them to attend the waste collection education programme personally, so they can learn about it.

“I believe that after this campaign, even if it is not 100 per cent, 70 to 80 per cent of people will stop disposing of their rubbish in the sea,” he said.

Sorn Srinh, a 34-year-old resident of Koh Sdach, said that previously there was no waste management system on the island, so people had littered their rubbish on the ground or in the sea.

He applauded the campaign, saying that with education, people will gain knowledge over time, reduce their littering and make a contribution to environmental sanitation.

“Recently, the district and commune authorities have cooperated well to inform the public about the reasons correct disposal is important. I think that most people will join in and we will see less litter in the ocean. I used to see a lot of rubbish in the water, so much sometimes that you could use the rubbish to observe the flow of the currents. But now, the amount of waste in the ocean is already reduced,” he said.

He added that local people had always wanted to keep the village clean for the sake of sanitation and to attract tourists, who increase their incomes. But because in the past there was no place to get rid of rubbish, people had no option but to throw it in the sea.

Sok Cheng said that since the increase in the number of tourists – and the people who serve them – on Koh Sdach, the rubbish has piled up. Currently, more than 600 families live on the island, a total of more than 29,000 people.