The Ministry of Environment has called on communities on the Tonle Sap Lake to join a weeklong clean-up campaign to reduce the plastic waste and pollution that is destroying the ecology and biodiversity of one of the world’s most productive freshwater fisheries.
Environment ministry spokesman Neth Pheaktra on November 22 announced the opening of National Sanitation Day and the Tonle Sap Festival 2020 under the theme “Good sanitation, environment, good community health in Siem Reap”. The campaign will continue until November 28.
He urged community members who live on the Tonle Sap in Siem Reap, Kampong Thom, Kampong Chhnang, Pursat and Battambang provinces to stop throwing rubbish in the lake and to help reduce pollution, especially plastic waste.
“The Tonle Sap Lake was polluted by plastics from community members who live on it and by the plastics that people throw into various creeks and rivers that flow into the lake,” Pheaktra said.
He stressed that discarded plastic bags, which can take hundreds of years to decompose, were polluting the environment and harming society, health and the environment.
Pheaktra said the celebration of National Sanitation Day on November 23 would include a campaign to clean up plastic waste during the receding season of the Tonle Sap Lake. The celebration was organised by the environmental department of Siem Reap, the Siem Reap provincial administration and the charity NGO2 BambooShoot Foundation. Ocean Recovery Alliance, an NGO based in Hong Kong and California, is a donor partner for the campaign.
He estimated that nearly 5,000 people from five communities on the Tonle Sap Lake and the downstream river of Siem Reap would take part in the celebration. Pheaktra added that 2,450 members had joined the clean-up campaign while another 2, 500 had agreed to clean up the areas around their respective houses.
Pheaktra said the plastic waste that will be collected this year will be recycled as environmental clay.
“The Tonle Sap Lake abounds with biodiversity, especially many species of national fish and an important ecology. [We] must stop plastics from polluting the environment so the lake retains its beauty and attracts more tourists. We practice the slogan: We are clean, our communities are clean. The Tonle Sap is clean without plastic,” according to report Pheaktra wrote last year.
Sea Sophal, director of NGO2 BambooShoot Foundation, said on November 22 that the programme would take place for a week from November 22 to 28. The campaign was launched at communities near the Tonle Sap from areas in Kampong Khlaing, Kampong Phluk, Chong Khnies, the Siem Reap River and the Mechrey community.
The main focus of the programme is to educate communities about sanitation, Sophal said, adding that local people would learn how to gather and sort plastic waste properly.
“The campaign to collect plastic waste takes place every year in November when the Tonle Sap Lake waters start to recede. In June, when the Tonle Sap waters start to rise, it flows back,” Sophal said.
“Thousands of community members will join us in conserving the biodiversity of the Tonle Sap Lake for all of us.”