Residents and civil society organisations in Sihanoukville are complaining of the foul odour produced by piles of rubbish after workers at the city’s only waste collection company quit their jobs en masse.
Lim Lina, a resident from commune I, urged authorities to address the issue in a timely manner.
“People who live here don’t know what to do. We can only share information about it on social media, hoping they will come to collect rubbish once they see it,” he said.
Cambodian National Research Organisation (CNRO) director Sok Sokhom told The Post on Tuesday that piles of rubbish were strewn throughout the city, giving off an unpleasant smell and leaving the environment and the city’s image in ruins.
“The issue of wastewater flowing into the sea has been solved, but waste management remains a major concern. I urge all relevant authorities to address the issue,” he said.
Sokhom said residents and NGOs have previously called on the municipal authority to replace KSWM – the city’s only waste collector – with a new company as it had repeatedly failed to do its job.
Cheap Sotheary, the provincial coordinator for human rights group Adhoc, told The Post on Tuesday that the issue has persisted for several weeks. In some areas, she said, rubbish was left uncollected for up to a week.
“When rubbish is left behind for too long it begins to give off a foul odour even after it has been collected. The odorous liquid coming off the rubbish also affects the environment and public hygiene,” she said.
In mid-March, Sotheary said, the company purchased more rubbish trucks to meet rising demands, but still failed to collect waste on schedule.
“I saw the waste management company using new garbage trucks, but it was short-lived. Some piles of rubbish were collected, while others were left untouched. We need to bring the issue to their attention, otherwise, no one would come to collect the rubbish."
“To be fair, it’s not easy for the company to recruit new workers because there are many better job opportunities in Sihanoukville. Even security guards can earn a salary of up to $300, compared to the meagre wages earned by waste collectors. Few people are willing to take this [waste collecting] job,” she said.
The Post could not reach KSWM’s representative Heng Peng Hak for comment on Tuesday. But he recently told state-run news agency Agence Kampuchea Presse that Sihanoukville accounted for over 170 tonnes of rubbish per day in 2017 and more than 300 tonnes per day last year, with the amount increasing month after month.
Preah Sihanouk municipal governor Y Sokleng told The Post on Tuesday that as with other provinces, rapid development in the coastal province coupled with poor public awareness was to blame for the mess.
Sokleng said some Sihanoukville dwellers are not aware of proper waste disposal, while the number of waste collectors at nearly 200 is not enough to meet actual demands.
“Last week, waste was left uncollected for two to four days as 30 to 40 waste collectors quit their job. Some workers took leave to visit their hometown, while others just left for other jobs. That has led to piles of rubbish scattered on city streets,” he said.
Sokleng said the company had informed him of its difficulties in recruiting more waste collectors as prospective labourers generally opt for higher-paid jobs in the city. However, he said that the issue would be solved soon.
“Waste was not collected for only several days. Now everything is returning to normal. The waste management company has purchased additional rubbish trucks, with one truck employed in each commune."
“The firm has also hired some workers from a sugar plantation which has more than enough workers and agreed to send them to collect waste here,” he said.