Source: Khmer Times
The second national workshop on better waste management was held in the capital this week to discuss and finalize a strategy to deal with Cambodia’s less-than-effective methods of garbage disposal.
Officials from the Ministry of Environment met with the Japan-based Institute of Global Environmental Strategies (IGES) as well as the UN’s International Environmental Technology Center to discuss and finalize an action plan.
As Cambodia’s growth continues to escalate, its production of waste has followed suit, with current methane emissions from landfill sites across Cambodia’s four major cities being estimated as high as 360,000 tons of CO2 equivalent per year, according to the workshop’s agenda.
While not as high as neighboring countries, Cambodia’s lack of proper solid waste management exposes the country to greater environmental and health risks.
The agenda states that simple pits or large open space areas are used as dumping sites, which do not comply with international standards as they lack covering soil, fire control systems and methane gas collection systems.
IGES researcher Ran Yagasa said yesterday that Cambodia’s challenges in dealing with waste were multifaceted and a holistic strategy was needed, particularly in the face of increasing carbon and methane emissions.
“Waste management and global warming nexuses are an increasingly important topic and we’re focusing on that particular area,” he said.
Mr. Yagasa said the country’s lack of collection services has led to the prevalent method of citizens openly burning waste to dispose of it.
This method releases black carbon, a matter that releases a much higher quantity of emissions than CO2, according to Mr. Yagasa.
“Because waste collection services are not adequately provided, some people burn their waste openly in their backyard or garden – open spaces – which creates a lot of black carbon,” he said.
To that end, education and capacity building are key features in the action plan the workshop hopes to finalize, however Mr. Yagasa said there needs to be political and societal will to affect change.
“We need political commitment, not just by the government but from the people as well,” he said, adding that strategies from facilities converting methane to energy to separating recyclables from disposables could be used, but without the policies and finances to back them up, the measures would be useless.
“Technology alone cannot be the solution to the problem, it’s rather the system or policies that support that technology.
“If the waste management system as a whole does not have a proper way to recycle, then it’s meaningless.”
But he said he remains hopeful the group’s action plan can be revised and finalized before being submitted to the government for debate within the next six months.
However, Mr. Yagasa acknowledged that funding for the strategy remained elusive.
“It’s not always the case that the Ministry for Environment has abundant resources to direct to waste management issues.”
Ngethn Bol, deputy director of the ministry’s solid waste management department, confirmed that funding for the strategy had yet to be finalized.
“So far we have a strategy and action plan on solid waste management, but the financial support is limited,” he said.
However, he said the government is already educating citizens on waste segregation via primary school classes as well as TV and radio broadcasts.
“Right now the people of Cambodia, they don’t separate waste at the sources, so we need to change,” he said.
“We are raising awareness with people, including programs on TV and radio, we have a twice a week [program] promoting waste separation, as well as classes at school and university.”
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Photo by Khmer Times