KOH KONG (Khmer Times) – The street that runs along the river in this provincial capital is lined along one side with tourist shops displaying posters of mountainside waterfalls, mangrove forests and pristine beaches. But the other side of the street is lined with garbage – all the way into the bay.
Ecotourism may be the province’s draw card, but trash is inescapable in the provincial capital, about 400 kilometers southwest of Phnom Penh.
Srey Pov, a snack vendor in Koh Kong, told Khmer Times that garbage is everywhere – despite attempts by provincial authorities to educate residents about how to properly dispose of it, as well as supply places for them to put it.
“You can see the rubbish is just left outside the bins,” Ms. Pov said, pointing to a garbage bin near her stall. The bin was nearly empty, but the area around it was littered with plastic water containers, broken bottles and plastic bags.
Although trash bins are not difficult to find in the provincial capital, residents are not using them.
Boat driver Soeung Thy said much of the garbage that contaminates the local river and bay flows down from villages and homes upstream along the tributaries that urn into it. Many of the local resorts and guesthouses are located along these tributaries, he said, adding that they simply dump trash into the water. Mr. Thy said trash floating in the river and bay, and along the banks, is discarded by visitors rather than local residents.
When asked if the rubbish will damage his business, he said he was not sure. But with more bus companies scheduling trips to the area and more guesthouses opening up along the rivers and tributaries, he said business, as well as the amount of trash, was sure to rise in the coming years.
Staff at a local tour provider disagreed with Mr. Thy’s assessment, saying that tourist numbers are falling. They said, however, that they were not sure whether this was related to the increase in the amount of garbage in the provincial capital.
Khemera Phoumin, owner of Kolab Koh Kong Guesthouse, said his was one of the few guesthouses working diligently to properly dispose of its trash and pay attention to the cleanliness of the area. “A clean city is one factor in helping draw more tourists and make them visit repeatedly,” he said.
Ms. Pov said authorities can fine people caught tossing garbage onto the street rather than putting it in bins. Other vendors agreed, but said they had not seen fines being imposed.
A boy plays with trash in a river near Koh Kong town.
A boat surrounded by trash in front of Koh Kong town.
A motorbike next to a pile of trash near a market in Koh Kong town.
Many town residents say the trash in the water is from guesthouses upriver.