Phnom Penh’s population has increased rapidly over the last decade. Official statistic estimated that the population would reach 2.9 million by 2025. The capital has become an attractive destination for domestic migration of rural residents who search for work.
The population growth literally bursts urban issues, particularly garbage management, despite efforts to advance such service keep up. According to the Ministry of Environment, Cambodia’s solid waste collections have increased more than 40 percent over the last five years. The trash collected in the Kingdom jumped to 1,423,923 tons in 2017 (the statistic rise from 990,199 tons in 2012). From 2016 to 2017 alone, rubbish collection services grew to 12.5 percent. Attributed factors to greater consumption, which led to the increasing in waste collection, are increase of population, expanded waste collection, and improving livelihoods.
Garbage collection service could not provide its services to all Phnom Penh residents. According to a report in 2016, more than 40 percent of residents, the figure is higher in poor community, could not access to garbage collection service. Consequently, people turn to illegal dumping, informal dumpsites, on-site burning of waste, and the accumulation of household waste in waterways, drainage systems, and community streets. While the capital is transforming into a metropolis city, Cambodian should be aware of impact of waste on the environment and health, and should improve their social responsibility to keep their neighborhood clean.
Sub-Decree on Waste Management, adapted by the Ministry of Environment, puts mandates of responsibility to community (khan) level to make their neighborhood clean. I firmly believe that community education is a significant push. Phnom Penh residents should change their habit of waste management, including packing, discharge, collection schedule, and composting, and be aware of impact on environment and health.
For the short and medium term, we should mobilize people through waste collection campaign at community level in Phnom Penh. The campaign should be involved with households in the community, commune official, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). The participants should be deployed to collect trash and clean different road in their own community. Such action will serve as a good practice to encourage the local residents to keep their community cleaned and properly handled the trash. The campaign should be done routinely in order to change the resident’s habit. Moreover, the participant should be motivated to directly involve in practice sessions on trash collection procedures including waste packing, separation…etc., health risks posed by waste, and trash collection schedule. If such practices to be implemented in Phnom Penh, our capital will be moving on a right path to become a clean and health place for everyone.
For the long run, Cambodia government should initiate social programs in order to establish a cleanliness culture. We should promote a theme: “Do not expect the trash collection services to take care all of your rubbishes. You should take your own responsibility.” Public school can play a significant role to build the cleanliness awareness among student, particularly kids. The Ministry of Education should introduce a policy, or in simple call as the “Cleanup Schedule Policy,” to keep their school campuses clean. For instance, every student shall routinely have responsibility for tidying up their own classrooms and collecting trash in their school campus. Cleanup schedules should be encouraged at community level. Everyone in his or her neighborhood should be regularly asked to join the community-cleaning day. They should practically know that putting away trash does not mean that their obligations are ended. Instead, we should build the concept of social obligations to keep their neighborhood clean. To keep their community clean, people should wear gloves; carry shovels, rakes and other tools to clean their neighborhood routinely. For public leisure places, likes gardens or exercising areas, everyone has responsibility to keep the places clean for public usage.
With such supports and encouragement to keep their neighborhood clean, I firmly believe that Cambodian, especially Phnom Penh residents will have social responsibility concept, which will lead to changing their habits of waste management in the future.