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Toilets, trucks on agenda

Toilets, trucks on agenda

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An overloaded truck drives along National Road 7 in Kratie province last month. Photograph: Heng Chivoan/Phnom Penh Post

The government announced new plans for developing both transportation and rural sanitation at the annual meeting of the Ministry of Rural Development at the Chaktomuk Conference Hall in Phnom Penh yesterday.

According to officials at the event, the ministry will be completing by year’s end a sub-decree laying out penalties for overloaded vehicles – seen by some as a source of added stress on Cambodia’s already pockmarked highways – and will also take measures to increase the number of modern latrines in rural areas over the next 12 years.

“The sub-decree will be done in many steps, but we’re trying our best to finish it in 2013, because there are many overloaded vehicles destroying our roads,” said Chan Darong, director of technical affairs at the ministry.

The sub-decree, which comes on the heels of a speech in which Prime Minister Hun Sen singled out the issue, would give police a legal framework in which to operate and could reduce spending on road construction, Darong added.

The ministry also took aim at sanitation, with Chea Samnang, director of the Department of Rural Health Care, saying that based on the department’s research, 53 per cent of rural Cambodians had televisions, 39 per cent had motorbikes and 29 per cent had mobile phones, but only 23 per cent have spent the $15 to $30 it takes to install toilets.

“So, do they lack the money to buy toilets, or do they have it but not buy them?” he asked, adding that the ministry planned to reform a financing scheme that in the past saw many recipients misuse the money intended to build latrines.

WHO Cambodia environmental engineer Steven Iddings, who has worked with the ministry, called the lack of improved latrines a “significant burden of diseases in children under five,” and said that casting latrines as a status symbol could be the quickest way to ensure their popularity. “The real key is to create demand on the part of the rural dwellers . . . so that they actually want to have those.”