The municipal Department of Public Works and Transport said on Thursday that it planned to remove tonnes of waste disorderly disposed of in the capital’s sewage canal next week.
The move followed widespread criticism of mass floating rubbish and the municipal authority’s alleged inaction.
Duong Chansarath, the head of the department’s drainage and sewage unit, rejected the criticism and said some households had disposed rubbish into the canal, which runs across the capital, despite repeated campaigns on proper waste management by relevant authorities.
He said his unit removes waste from the canal four times a year, with floating rubbish moved from the city centre to the canal’s end in Chamkarmon district’s Boeung Trabek commune before being taken away using machinery according to set schedules.
“They criticised us but it’s some critics themselves who throw rubbish into the canals and make us clean the mess. We can’t do it every day because we have only around 10 workers. So what we do is we move the rubbish from the city centre to the canal’s end in Boeung Trabek."
“People need to stop throwing rubbish into the canal and instead put it at proper places as assigned by the authority. Rubbish collecting companies would not collect waste from the canal,” he said.
Chansarath said his unit had removed around 10,000 tonnes of rubbish disorderly thrown into the canal each year.
Soeung Saran, the executive director of housing rights NGO Sahmakum Teang Tnaut – which has previously conducted a study on waste management in Phnom Penh said waste management involves all stakeholders.
“They should not trade blame. It’s meant to be a shared responsibility. To be fair, the local communities should put out their waste properly while rubbish collecting companies need to provide clear schedules and assign exact places for people to put out their waste."
“As for the authority, they need to continue disseminating [waste management-related] information to ensure the public is well aware of the issue. Then they need to properly implement existing regulations,” he said.
According to the 2015 sub-decree on waste management, disorderly waste disposal could result in a fine of up to 200,000 riel ($50). Businesses including markets, factories and enterprises also face fines if found to have improperly disposed of industrial, solid and hazardous waste.
According to the EU, approximately 10 million plastic bags are used in Phnom Penh per day, while solid waste throughout the Kingdom exceeded 1.5 million tonnes in 2017.