The Ministry of Public Works and Transport is running an awareness raising campaign in Preah Sihanouk province focused on sewage and wastewater systems, calling on the public to do their part in maintaining these systems and improving these services for their communities.

The campaign – which is being run by the ministry’s General Department of Sewage and Wastewater Management in collaboration with the provincial administration and UN-Habitat – began on December 23 with messaging related to healthcare and personal hygiene.

“The public education programme in Preah Sihanouk province is a good way to encourage efficient and sustainable use, maintenance and protection by the public of already-built infrastructure,” the ministry said.

Ministry undersecretary of state Vong Piseth said that due to Cambodia’s economic growth over the past two decades, the province’s development momentum was overtaking its infrastructure capacity and causing some issues, especially problems with wastewater flowing into residential and natural areas, affecting people’s wellbeing and the beauty and biodiversity of natural ecosystems, both of which are harmful to the provincial and national economies.

“In order for our infrastructure to endure for long periods before needing replacement, citizens and private businesses need to join hands to turn Sihanoukville into a model coastal city that is beautiful, clean and protects the environment so that it is a good place to live as well as a place that attracts domestic and international tourists. This can be done through the promotion of good sanitation and public health,” he said.

The ministry said it was drafting a law on wastewater and sewage systems in collaboration with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) as this could help resolve some of the current problems with the wastewater and sewage systems, which pose the risk of complicating economic development and public health in the future.

Neam Kopy, an environmental impact assessments expert, said that whatever the problems are and whether there is a law or not, there is obviously a need for increased education and the dissemination of knowledge about sanitation and the environment to the people.

He said that solving the sewage and wastewater problems will require the general public to comply with certain rules and regulations to ensure that it stays in good working order.

“No matter what the problems might be, solving them always starts with education. And no matter what the ministry writes into law, it needs to educate people as its first step. When they have a clear understanding of what they need to do and why, it can be very effective in getting people’s cooperation.

“But if they don’t know why they are being asked to change the way they do things, then the law probably won’t be very effective,” he said.