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Sihanoukville building site accused of burning waste

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The illegal burning of plastic and construction waste in Sihanoukville. Photo supplied

Sihanoukville building site accused of burning waste

The owner of a high-rise construction site in Preah Sihanouk province’s Commune 2 has been accused of having “secretly burned huge amounts of plastic day and night” by an anonymous source who contacted The Post on Monday.

“The smoke causes headaches, nausea and sore throats for everybody living in the area. The burning of plastic and construction waste is against the law in Cambodia because the smoke causes cancer and lung diseases.

“The air has made everybody here sick, especially children and the elderly,” the source said via email, identifying a Chinese national as the owner of the site.

Commune 2 chief Kim Sea said authorities imposed fines for the illegal burning of household and commercial rubbish, adding that most owners of construction sites hired private waste disposal companies to follow the law.

The source claimed local residents had notified authorities on several occasions, but police had ignored their complaints and the illegal burning of plastic waste continued.

Commune 2 chief Kim Sea told The Post on Monday that authorities imposed fines for the illegal burning of rubbish, including both household and construction waste.

Sea conceded that some smaller sites continued to secretly burn waste, but authorities had yet to receive reports of residents’ health being affected.

“We haven’t heard this particular allegation. If we people report that their health is being impacted, we will visit the site concerned immediately to resolve the issue,” he said.

Municipal Governor Y Sokleng told The Post that the secret burning of rubbish is rare and did not “generally occur in Sihanoukville”.

Authorities regularly educate residents, he said, sometimes imposing fines according to the law if they continued to burn waste.

“I have not received specific reports, but I have been informed of several instances in which waste has been burned secretly.

“I urge the local police and environment officers to fine those who burn waste,” Sokleng said.

Massive heaps of rubbish were burned on the side of the road in Commune 4’s Village 2 in Preah Sihanouk province last April when the majority of Kampong Som Waste Management employees were on holiday for Khmer New Year.

Police said the waste was set ablaze illegally, sending toxic plumes of smoke into the air.

Cambodian National Research Organisation director Sok Sokhom declined to comment to The Post on the issue, saying “it is just a small problem”.

Provincial Department of Environment director Samut Sothearith could not be reached for comment by press time.

The World Health Organisation estimates that 3.7 million people die each year as a result of air pollution, with open burning being responsible for at least one-fifth of those deaths.

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