Adapting Japan’s green habits in Phnom Penh

Anith Adilah Othman / Khmer Times No Comments Share:
Secretary of State at the Ministry of Environment Neth Pheaktra (left), Deputy Governor Of Phnom Penh City Hall H.E Hout Hay (center) and Ambassador of Japan to Cambodia H.E Hidehisa Horinouchi lead the inaugural community garbage collection drive. Supplied

Seven Japanese organisations, led by Mitsubishi Corporation Phnom Penh Representative Office, have started an initiative dubbed the Phnom Penh Clean City Challenge to raise awareness and involvement in environmental activities among Cambodians from a young age, writes Anith Adilah Othman.

When you think of Japan and its people, you would at once envision a modern, structured society where punctuality and cleanliness stand at the forefront of their principles. It no longer comes as a surprise to see Japanese tourists abroad picking up trash from the sidewalks, for instance.

While cleaning to many of us can be viewed as a chore, the Japanese see concern for the environment as an integral part of their national culture. In fact, schoolchildren in the Land of the Rising Sun clean their own classrooms and bathrooms. And this was not even mandated by its government.

Perhaps, organising extraordinaire and best-selling author Marie Kondo, who recently caused a global buzz with her latest Netflix show, also owed her new-found fame to this commendable tradition. Dare I say that the Japanese may have perfected the art of being model citizens.Phnom Penh Clean City Challenge with Japan Executive Committee Chairman and Mitsubishi Corporation Phnom Penh Representative Office General Manager Mr Yogo Kanda explained that the Japanese are taught and encouraged to take part in environmental activities from when they were young.

“We raise awareness and involvement in environmental activities from a young age, with children taking part in community garbage clean-ups, nature excursions, and others,” he told Good Times2.

In Japan, environmental awareness is inculcated in its citizens from a young age. Photo: Supplied

He added this is what makes Japan unique among other Asian countries.

On November 18 last year, seven Japanese organisations, led by Mitsubishi Corporation’s Phnom Penh Representative Office, have started an initiative dubbed the Phnom Penh Clean City Challenge with Japan to nurture the same habits within the Kingdom’s capital.

“As Japanese living and working in Cambodia, we feel that we want to share these unique aspects of our culture. Cooperating together with local people to contribute to Cambodian society through ‘soft power’, we hope that our activities have a lasting positive impact,” Mr Kanda said.

Khmer Times previously reported that in Phnom Penh alone, about 3,000 tonnes of trash is being collected daily and only about 20 percent of it is recycled with between 70 and 80 percent taken to landfills.

Based on a report from the Ministry of Environment in October last year, the amount of garbage produced in the country has surged at a rate of about ten percent each year, spurred by population growth, changes in lifestyle and packaging, and a lack of understanding on how to sort waste.

The inaugural community garbage collection drive, however, was deemed a tremendous success. Each of the organisation involved had invited their members to partake in the event, as a part of their corporate social responsibility (CSR) programmes. Volunteers then served as leaders of the five clean-up teams throughout the city on that auspicious day.“Actually, this year’s first event was more successful than we anticipated. We expected 500 participants, but totally 900 people joined hands together to clean up the city.

Phnom Penh Clean City Challenge is deemed a tremendous success with nearly 800 hundred participants involved. Photo: Supplied

“We especially welcomed the participation by City Hall and the Ministry of Environment. Involving local residents, authorities, our colleagues and friends, we hope to achieve even greater impact with next year’s activity,” he said.

Mr Kanda said the preparation of the event was co-shouldered among committee members which constituted of the Embassy of Japan (EOJ), Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), Japanese Business Association of Cambodia (JBAC), Cambodia-Japan Business and Investment (CJBI), World Association of Overseas Japanese Entrepreneurs (WAOJE), Japanese NGO Workers’ Network in Cambodia (JNNC) and Japanese Association for Promotion of Education and Culture Business in Cambodia (JACAM).

“It was jointly shared, with individual organisations taking on the responsibility for finance, stage and booth set-up, event agenda, cleaning tools, garbage collection, security, first aid etcetera. As chair of the executive committee, we led efforts of involving local authorities, such as City Hall and the Ministry of Environment and supported the event as Premier Sponsor,” he explained.

This knowledge-slash-cultural transfer between the two nations does not stop here. Ambassador of Japan in Cambodia H.E. Mr. Hidehisa Horinouchi said that the Japanese government will continuously support the Public-Private Partnership (PPP), through its Official Development Assistance (ODA). This would mean utilising the technology, know-how, and expertise of the private sector for further development and prosperity of the Kingdom.

“For instance, JICA has implemented a project using Japanese company’s technologies for plastic recycling system to convert waste to eco-product in Svay Rieng.

“Another example is the project for wastewater management in Phnom Penh utilising the know-how of City of Kitakyushu, the sister-city of Phnom Penh Capital City, while collaborating with expertise and technologies of Japanese private companies, university and NGOs,” he told Good Times2, adding that there are other ongoing CSR activities by Japanese companies here including forest conservation and afforestation efforts.

Mitsubishi Corporation Phnom Penh Representative Office General Manager Mr Yogo Kanda believes that the initiative would nurture Cambodians’ love towards environmental activities. Photo: Supplied

Take Mitsubishi Corporation, for example. On top of Phnom Penh Clean City Challenge with Japan, the multinational company is supporting several different CSR programmes in Cambodia.

For example, Mr Kanda said this includes the restoration of the Angkor Wat Archaeological Park and a programme for contributing fabric cuttings for soccer balls and dolls that are sewn by mothers of schoolchildren in rural and poor communities to supplement their income.

Education-wise, Mitsubishi Corporation has also supported a new STEM Program at Preah Yokunthor High School and provided scholarships for undergraduate students in STEM subjects, with added chance to intern at their office here.

Last, but most certainly not least, their latest CSR initiative supports female Cambodian designers from the so-called Dream Girls Project, by integrating a chosen design into stationary items for use by Mitsubishi Corporation Phnom Penh Representative Office.


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