The medium-term direction on urban solid waste management in Cambodia is to first and foremost meet the needs of the people and ensure that they live in clean, hygienic and safe environments, according to Ministry of Environment spokesman Neth Pheaktra.

This goal covers the next three years from 2022 to 2025. A number of measures must still be implemented in order to meet the goals of the plan, such as shifting to the use of a single waste collection service in each town to ensure maximum efficiency for the process.

Another important step is to establish standards of quality for waste collection companies with the means and experience in providing services on a large-scale at the municipal level.

Pheaktra said the ministry would continue to provide trucks and remorque trailers to local authorities to increase the efficiency and scope of services, while collecting data on solid waste management in targeted areas in advance of the establishment of a national-level entity involved in this field.

“The environment ministry has so far provided municipal and provincial administrations with 60 incinerators, 58 trucks and 118 trailers,” he said.

Pheaktra further stated that they would be guided by the results of surveys and studies conducted in 2019, 2020 and 2021 by the inter-ministerial working group, which included the Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Economy and Finance and a team from the environment ministry’s Department of Solid Waste Management, as well as consulting firm LUMA.

The data they collected will help them determine the effectiveness of the implementation of urban solid waste management programmes, but the overall public assessment shows that urban solid waste management is not yet responsive enough to the growing problems of waste generation in urban areas.

“Most of the waste collection services are good, but there are still some remnants of rubbish scattered around places, especially in the towns and on the national roads. We will make further efforts to improve the efficiency of the waste collection service in order to make our cities and towns more beautiful and more environmentally friendly,” he stated.

Yin Saven, the mayor of Kampong Chhnang town, said on June 14 that his administration has been following the environment ministry’s instructions and especially those found in Sub-Decree No 113, which took effect in 2015.

Saven said that to combat the dumping of garbage in the town or along open roads, the Kampong Chhnang municipal administration continues efforts to educate people and raise awareness without resorting to any fines or legal action at this point.

“We think that the people have not changed their old ideas and concepts, so we think that education as a whole is the best approach.

“Furthermore, we have a team that works on this exclusively, meaning we follow through and use points of contact like the One Window Service centre to continuously educate about the fact that when there is garbage, they can report it to us – whether it’s unburned garbage or trash dumped and scattered in public,” he said.

Heng Yonkura, executive director of the Community Sanitation and Processing Organisation, said on June 14 that outreach education is a good method to make people understand the impacts of garbage and poor sanitation on their health, but if they were to levy fines then the municipal administration must first have all of the necessary waste management services in place before imposing any penalties.

“Before punishing them we must prove we can provide services to them in every direction and determine whether they dumped the waste because of lack of collection services or not enough garbage collection vehicles coming to their area.

“If there is no reliable service, they will illegally dump the waste into the canals or at depots,” he said.

Governor of Krouch Chhmar district, Soy Touch, said on June 14 that in his district there is currently one major problem.

People in the communes along the Mekong River who did not understand how to properly dispose of garbage and dumped their waste into the river were causing significant harm to the environment, and degrading the biodiversity of river and water quality.

He said that although this issue must be addressed urgently, the law cannot be implemented immediately and required more time to be promulgated and to organise garbage collection services first.

“We have not yet imposed fines, but the penalties have already been set in the law for those who illegally throw out garbage,” he said.

“But first we need to prepare a clear waste management system that works, and we need to widely disseminate information to people about it.”