The NGO2 Bamboo Shoot Foundation in cooperation with the Cambodian Association of Travel Agents (CATA) launched an environmental clean-up campaign to pick up plastic waste along the Tonle Sap Lake in Siem Reap province in order to improve the beauty of the area and increase the amount of tourists visiting nearby communities.

The campaign, which will run from October 31 through December 31, began with the Me Chrey pagoda complex in Peam Ta’ou village of Puok district’s Keo Poa commune.

Sea Sophal, director of the NGO2 Bamboo Shoot Foundation, said this year’s campaign theme is “Green, Clean, Plastic-Free Tonle Sap”— and the project would continue to encourage communities to participate by cleaning up and disposing of plastic waste properly.

“With the Tonle Sap River starting to recede, for this year’s campaign we cooperated with the Ministry of Tourism and CATA in order to spread green tourism to the communities of Mechrey, Chong Kneas, Kampong Phluk, Kampong Khleang, Boeung Reang and all those who are downriver on the Siem Reap River,” he said.

He added that the campaign will raise awareness about disposing of plastic rubbish properly, especially to help increase tourism income in these communities.

“The important thing is not only to clean up plastics in the Tonle Sap Lake, but also to beautify it, and this project will help facilitate the livelihoods of the people, because they get milled rice and other materials for participating in the proper disposal of plastics,” he said.

“In order to support the plastic clean-up project, we will distribute milled rice to 360 families in the Mechrey community, and the Borey Peng Huoth has also donated nearly four tonnes of milled rice, canned fish and soy sauce,” he said, referring to the high-end gated community developer Peng Huoth Group based in Phnom Penh.

In addition to that, he said the NGO2 Bamboo Shoot Foundation also distributed sacks to people so they can use them for plastic rubbish.

“For this project, we distributed sacks to families so that they can keep plastics in them and we taught them to break the habit of throwing plastics into the water. Instead, they put them in sacks and pick up plastics when the water is receding or rising,” he said.

CATA president Chhay Sivlin said the campaign would help the Tonle Sap Lake become free of plastics to increase its value as a tourist attraction. She also asked that people take care of the environment and practice good sanitation habits to attract more domestic and international tourists to visit these communities.

“People should not throw plastic rubbish into the Tonle Sap Lake – they should place it properly and contribute to keeping the lake’s environment clean and plastic-free,” she said.

Sophal of the NGO2 Bamboo Shoot Foundation said the project has been carried out yearly since 2018.

“Between 20 and 30 tonnes of plastic has been picked up during each campaign, usually filling between 4,000 and 5,000 sacks and each campaign has been able to mobilise 5,000 to 6,000 community members to help with the clean-up,” he said.