Clock ticking on city’s waste crisis: reports

Workers shovel rubbish into a truck in the capital last year.
Workers shovel rubbish into a truck in the capital last year. Vireak Mai

Clock ticking on city’s waste crisis: reports

The government could be forced to shell out more than $120 million to build new landfills over the next decade unless it invests in preventing Phnom Penh’s current site from reaching capacity, according to a pair of new reports.

Released jointly at an event at the capital’s Sunway Hotel yesterday, the reports paint a picture of a looming trash crisis, with population growth and urban development set to increase the amount of waste produced by the municipality daily by at least 150 per cent in 15 years.

At this trajectory, the city will generate 10 million tonnes of waste by 2030, at which time at least 3,112 tonnes will be churned out each day, according to the Institute of Technology of Cambodia research, supported by the US-based Asia Foundation.

Jon Morales, program manager for the Asia Foundation’s Urban Services Program in Cambodia, said the figures were conservative. With the capital’s only landfill – located in Dangkor district – set to reach capacity in five years, the government has a two-year window to act, he said.

“Without measures taken to mitigate, or recover some of the cumulative waste predicted to build up in the next 15 years in Phnom Penh beyond the current methods, there simply will not be enough appropriate land available to accommodate the expected amount of waste,” he said.

If nothing is done, Phnom Penh will need to pump $120 million over the next decade into new landfills, the second report, prepared by waste-management NGO COMPED, estimates. As a solution, it proposes building a $1.2 million composting plant for food and organic waste it says could extend the life of the Dangkor site from 2020 to at least 2040.

In December, Phnom Penh Deputy Governor Ieng Aunny said the city was searching for investors to build an incineration plant to ease the burden, but it’s unclear if any progress toward that goal has been made.

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