Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Trash, medical incidents mount as Water Festival crowds grow



Trash, medical incidents mount as Water Festival crowds grow

A woman is treated for heatstroke yesterday afternoon at a Water Festival medical tent on Phnom Penh’s Sisowath Quay.
A woman is treated for heatstroke yesterday afternoon at a Water Festival medical tent on Phnom Penh’s Sisowath Quay. Hong Menea

Trash, medical incidents mount as Water Festival crowds grow

After a somewhat muted opening day on Sunday, Phnom Penh officials yesterday said they believed Water Festival attendance had doubled during its second day, with authorities dealing with an increased number of festival-goers seeking medical care and public criticism of fast-accumulating litter.

Phnom Penh City Hall spokesman Mean Chanyada yesterday maintained that the number of spectators soared during the second day.

“During the first day, the number of people was between 600,000 to 700,000 people and during the second day it was between 1 million and 1.2 million,” he said.

Attendees yesterday did say that while crowds seemed to have grown since Sunday, they still fell well short of the massive throngs associated with years’ past.

But as the number of festival-goers increased, so did the number of people experiencing dizziness, minor injuries and dehydration. In one medical unit alone, more than 300 people had sought medical services as of yesterday afternoon, compared with 200 people on Sunday.

Meanwhile, city officials took to social media to complain about mounting rubbish piles, sparking an online debate over who was actually to blame. Phnom Penh’s Department of Public Works and Transport yesterday seemed to point the finger at the public, saying on its Facebook page that employees had worked from midnight until 6:15am yesterday morning to clean up all the trash left over from the first day of celebrations.

“After the first day of the Water Festival, they [workers] noticed that rubbish is still a problem caused by some people who just throw it everywhere,” part of the post reads. The post, which as of yesterday evening had been “liked” 5,300 times and shared more than 7,000 times, also spurred almost 600 comments from people.

While many commenters blamed a lack of education and “bad habits”, others maintained that not enough waste receptacles – the municipality deployed 1,020 – had been placed around the city.

Sam Piseth, director of the Department of Public Works, declined to comment on whether it was the public or festival planners to blame for the trash problem.

Va Sim Soriya, spokesman for the Ministry of Public Works and Transport, said this is not the first time that people had complained about trash at Water Festivals, but maintained the city was responsible, not the ministry. He also declined to comment on whether the 1,020 trash bins were sufficient.

Meanwhile, Chanyada maintained waste management was better this year compared to previous years. “According to the report from the first day, 2,100 tonnes of waste were collected, and this is normal,” he said, declining to comment on the complaints.

Separately, the practice of rounding up “undesirables” continued this year. Sorn Sophal, director of the Phnom Penh Municipal Social Affairs Department, said about 20 beggars had been rounded up during the first day of the festival and released with a warning to stay away from the festivities.

MOST VIEWED

  • Phnom Penh placed in two-week lockdown

    The government has decided to place Phnom Penh in lockdown for two weeks, effective April 14 midnight through April 28, as Cambodia continues to grapple with the ongoing community outbreak of Covid-19, which has seen no sign of subsiding. According to a directive signed by Prime Minister

  • Cambodia on the verge of national tragedy, WHO warns

    The World Health Organisation (WHO) in Cambodia warned that the country had reached another critical point amid a sudden, huge surge in community transmission cases and deaths. “We stand on the brink of a national tragedy because of Covid-19. Despite our best efforts, we are

  • Hun Sen: Stay where you are, or else

    Prime Minister Hun Sen warned that the two-week lockdown of Phnom Penh and adjacent Kandal provincial town Takmao could be extended if people are not cooperative by staying home. “Now let me make this clear: stay in your home, village, and district and remain where

  • Businesses in capital told to get travel permit amid lockdown through One Window Service

    The Phnom Penh Municipal Administration has issued guidelines on how to get travel permission for priority groups during the lockdown of Phnom Penh, directing private institutions to apply through the municipality's One Window Service and limit their staff to a mere two per cent. In

  • Vaccination open to foreigners in Cambodia

    The Ministry of Health on April 8 issued an announcement on Covid-19 vaccination for foreigners residing and working in Cambodia, directing the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training and local authorities to register them. Health minister Mam Bun Heng, who is also head of the inter-ministerial

  • Ministry names types of business permitted amid lockdown

    The Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training singled out 11 types of business that are permitted to operate during the lockdown of Phnom Penh and Takmao town, which run through April 28. Those include (1) food-processing enterprises and slaughterhouses; (2) providers of public services such as firefighting, utility and