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Governor seeks World Bank’s help as Sihanoukville rubbish rockets to 1,000 tonnes a day

Ben Sokhean / Khmer Times Share:
Waste outside a construction site in Sihanoukville drops into a canal. KT/Chor Sokunthea

Due to the rapid growth of the Kingdom’s coastal city of Sihanoukville, the amount of rubbish being produced daily has skyrocketed from just 100 to 200 tonnes per day in 2015 to a staggering 1,000 tonnes today, prompting Preah Sihanouk’s governor to request World Bank aid to address the situation.

Governor Kuoch Chamroeun on Monday made the request during a meeting with Grace Smith, an environment consultant for the World Bank and co-founder of Go Green Cambodia, who gave a presentation on plastic waste management at the Provincial Hall.

A Provincial Hall statement yesterday said Mr Chamroeun asked the World Bank for technical assistance to manage garbage in order to prevent tonnes of garbage from flowing into the sea.

“The governor requested for technical assistance in building a waste barrier and also a treatment plant at O’chheouteal Beach in Sihanoukville’s Buon commune to prevent garbage from flowing into the sea,” it said.

During their meeting, Mr Chamroeun told Ms Smith the amount of garbage produced in Sihanoukville has rapidly increased over the past few years, making it difficult for the provincial administration to manage the sheer volume of waste.

“Due to rapid development, garbage in our city has increased by between 10 to 15 percent annually,” Mr Chamroeun said. “In 2015, we only had 100 to 200 tonnes of garbage per day, but now we have up to 1,000 per day.”

According to National Institute of Statistics, Preah Sihanbouk had a population of around 89,800 Cambodians, with approximately 66,700 in its urban centre, in 2008 – a number that has ballooned to 302,000 people this year according to the latest census.

This population of 302,000 does not include an influx of Chinese nationals investing in the coastal city. According to Sihanoukville Governor Y Sokleng, Chinese investors began flocking to Sihanoukville over the past few years and their population is now estimated to rival locals at about 80,000.

In 2017, Kampong Som Waste Management Company agreed to a ten-year contract to operate garbage disposal after its predecessor, Cintri, had its contract terminated due to inefficient services.

Earlier this year, provincial authorities added 30 garbage trucks and 171 garbage collectors in four communes to improve the collection and transportation of garbage in Sihanoukville.

Mr Chamroeun noted that the provincial administration is working hard to collect garbage in the city, but cannot cope with the amount being disposed.

“We even held a campaign to clean up the garbage and increased the transportation of waste out of the city,” Mr Chamroeun told Ms Smith.

“Currently, the garbage company only has 85 trucks and we are pushing for it to have 80 more in the near future,” Mr Chamroeun added. “Our garbage collection services are also currently undergoing a crisis because many collectors have left for better jobs.”

“We also face problems transporting the waste because of damaged roads and traffic jams,” he noted. “Normally, the trucks transport garbage three times a day, but when the jams are severe they can only make one trip.”

Governor Kuoch Chamroeun and Grace Smith, middle, pose for a group photo following their meeting. Provincial Hall

Mr Chamroeun noted that the provincial administration is holding discussions with investment partners on processing plastic waste to generate electricity in its bid to reduce the amount of garbage flowing into the sea through sewers after heavy rain.

Mr Chamroeun could not be reached for comment yesterday.

According to the Provincial Hall statement, Ms Smith joined the meeting with Mr Chamroeun to gain understanding of plastic waste management in Sihanoukville.

After the meeting, Ms Smith said via email that she is hopeful the situation can be improved.

“I came to the meeting confident that the governor is a good leader dreaming big, with an understanding that systemic change is needed,” she said. “He explained the challenges this city faces. Conversation focused around the topics of circular economy, economic growth through foreign investment and how to stem plastic pollution by looking at alternative investments.”

“He…requested assistance in drafting an action plan to bring in the right alternatives to process waste, and requested assistance to create behavioural change campaigns to reduce consumption of single-use plastics in the province,” she added.

San Daravid, founder of Garbage Youth, a volunteer group aiming to keep the Kingdom clean, yesterday said the increasing population is to blame for the waste problem.

“I have participated in waste collection campaigns in Sihanoukville and saw piles of garbage in many places, especially at construction sites,” he noted.

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