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Trash raises stink in Siem Reap

Garbage collected from city roads and local houses piles up next to a dumpster
Garbage collected from city roads and local houses piles up next to a dumpster at a Global Action for Environment Awareness collection site in Siem Reap. Thik Kaliyann

Trash raises stink in Siem Reap

Following a complaint by more than 430 families, Siem Reap provincial governor Khim Bunsong has ordered more frequent inspections of a rubbish dump the villagers say is causing health problems and killing crops.

Speaking to the Post yesterday, Bunsong said he had ordered officials to inspect the site often and asked the company, Global Action for Environment Awareness (GAEA), to dig more waste storage ponds, which he added would happen early this week.

The site is near a residential neighborhood as well as a school in Prasat Bakong districts’s Phnom Dey village.

Bunsong said the search was continuing for a new site to accommodate Siem Reap’s growing piles of waste, with about 220 tonnes taken to the city’s dumps daily.

“We will try to find larger locations that the company can continue using because there is a lot of garbage in the province,” Bunsong said.

Last month, 432 families from the area accused the dump site operator of having made their lives unbearable by dumping rubbish in the community for nearly 15 years.

GAEA chief executive Pho Phalkun said that work was under way to eliminate smoke and water coming from the dump, adding the firm would build dams and plant trees to bring the site up to standard.

However, he conceded, there was no way to get rid of the odour completely, an admission unlikely to comfort residents such as Sek Bunthorn, principal of Anlong II primary school, where nearly 400 students are tormented by the stench of the city’s waste.

With his school only 800 metres from the rubbish piles, Bunthorn said teachers and students were suffering serious respiratory problems, particularly when the company burned the trash.

“When the smoke and the acrid smell arise, it’s difficult to breathe, both for teachers and students,” he said.

“Some of the teachers have asked for changing schools. We have asked the authorities to intervene,” he said.

On Friday, Cambodia National Rescue Party lawmaker Ke Sovannaroth demanded in a letter that Bunsong stop GAEA from dumping rubbish at the site.

“Intervene and stop the activities of the company,” Sovannaroth writes in the letter, signed by National Assembly President Heng Samrin.

This isn’t the first complaint lodged against GAEA, the city’s only waste disposal company.

In February, residents in Chreav commune to the east of Bakong accused the company of causing sickness and a widespread mosquito infestation in the area.

Phalkun said that situation, which occurred at a waste transfer station where garbage trucks are cleaned, had been resolved.

However, residents in Chreav commune could not be reached yesterday to verify this.

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