Phnom Penh Governor Chea Sophara recently asked local authorities to take action to protect the Mekong River from pollution.
He has asked officials in Meanchey, Russei Keo and Chamkar Mon districts to work with the municipality to fight water pollution.
“Keeping a clean environment for the people is a top priority,” Chea Sophara said. “Whatever
affects the environment and people’s health must be tackled first.”
He said Sunday that the quality of the Mekong River has been deteriorating because garment factories, old homes and restaurants located along the waterfront have been polluting the water.
He compared the condition of the river to the 1960s, when he said residents and others could bathe in clean water, free of pollution.
“If you bathe or dive in the water now, you would encounter garbage,” he said.
The municipality has asked factory owners to sign a contract requiring them to equip factories with a water treatment facility.
Municipal officials in recent months have been educating factory owners and others living along the Mekong River not to dump waste into the water.
So far, the municipality hasn’t fined anyone, but officials have been observing whether businesses are following the law. If there is a violation of environmental laws, the municipality will decide on the punishment then, said Seng Tong, one of Phnom Pen’s deputy governors.
Heng Nareth, director of pollution control at the Environment Ministry, said since July, ministry officials have been going to factories to educate them about pollution and to check to see if they are obeying environmental rules. Inspections will be done three to four times a year, he said.
So far, the ministry has not fined anyone because most businesses have been working well with officials, Heng Nareth said. One factory near Phnom Penh has been temporarily shut down because it was polluting a community’s water supply.
“We asked some factories to treat the water before dumping into the river,” he said. “We got good results.”
The next step is to deal with homes along the river, many of which violate urbanization, environmental and land laws, Heng Nareth said. He said the homes cause a lot of pollution, but the ministry cannot go too far by removing homes immediately.
“We need a meeting of relevant ministries to solve the problem,” Heng Nareth said. “If we go too far, people will lose their houses.”
Chea Sophara said his next environmental plan is to clean up the garbage on the roads.