The passing of the Khmer New Year has left something behind in Phnom Penh other than good cheer: large steaming mounds of rubbish that have gone uncollected for days on the streets of the capital.
Throughout this week, as many left the city during the three-day holiday, piles of hot rotting garbage have increasingly stunk up the streets.
By Friday, officials and residents alike dumped their own criticism on Phnom Penh’s principal trash collector, Cintri Ltd, stating that it has increased health risks to the city’s population as the piles of rubbish breed disease.
The smell of trash in parts of Toul Kok district’s Phsar Depot II commune has become unbearable, commune chief Touch Chanthan said.
“The public has complained that workers were late in taking it,” he said of the mounds of rubbish on the streets of his district.
“Some people take their trash and drop it near a school fence because it smells so bad,” he said.
A senior municipal official said that Cintri needs to act quickly lest the piles all over the city damage the health of Phnom Penh residents. Too many Cintri workers may have gone to the provinces for the holiday, he said.
“There has been much trash on the street,” the official said, on condition of anonymity. “The trash could affect the health and environment [of Phnom Penh],” he said.
Interior Ministry spokesman Lieutenant General Khieu Sopheak said that, though Cintri has collected some refuse, it has overall not done its job this week.
“Everyone eats daily and creates garbage. [Cintri] should have workers collect the garbage,” he said, adding that some blame also goes toward those who litter, and they need to be better educated about dumping trash in the streets.
Seng Savy, director general of Cintri, said by telephone that he was unable to comment Friday because he was abroad. He referred questions to the company’s vice president, Seng Chomroeum. A man answering Mr Seng Chomroeum’s phone said Mr Seng Chomroeum was overseas and unavailable for comment.
Sin Somuny, executive director of the Medicam NGO, an umbrella group of health organizations, said that disease breeds well in piles of garbage, aiding the spread of malaria, dengue fever and other infections.
“Poor sanitation significantly impacts the health of people,” he said.
Particularly when subject to rain, the piles nourish mosquito larvae, rats and flies, he said.
“Flies can carry all those germs and bacteria to open places where they sell food and it can really spread infection,” he said.
An oyster seller near Olympic market said the pile of garbage near her stall forced her to move after the smell became overwhelming.
“I know it is Khmer New Year but Cintri should arrange the schedule of its workers to collect the trash during these days,” she said, declining to give her name. “This trash affects my business. It smells awful.”
(Additional reporting by Tim Sturrock)