Government Passes Waste Disposal Plans to Local Authorities

Responsibility for cleaning garbage from neighborhoods will be put in the hands of district officials under new guidelines released on Tuesday as part of the government’s plan to decentralize waste disposal.

District leaders across the country will meet with their communities to plot a grassroots approach to tackling the issue before reporting their findings at the national level to receive funding, officials said on Tuesday.

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Trash bags pile up next to Phsar Kap Kor in Phnom Penh’s Chamkar Mon district on Tuesday afternoon. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

The process will put provincial plans for dealing with trash in the hands of officials closer to home, hopefully putting into practice laws created in response to a 2015 sub-decree on waste management, officials said.

“We all need to engage the people in the process of decision-making, as it has mutual benefits to a service provider and to a citizen as a beneficiary,” said Sou Savuth, undersecretary of state with the Environment Ministry in charge of solid waste management, during the guidelines launch in Phnom Penh on Tuesday.

“For example, conduct a forum,” he said. “If you charge 4,000 riel a month [for garbage collections], what do people think?”

Plans for conducting waste disposal should be incorporated into quarterly district reports, with updates throughout the year, according to Tho Kimhun, a district councilor from Kompong Thom’s Stong district.

He said he welcomed the move, as his district has previously lacked both finances and personnel to effectively address the issue.

Funds would be divvied up from a national pool based on the needs reported to the central government, said Ngan Chamroeun, deputy head of the National Committee for Sub-National Democratic Development Secretariat, which released the plan alongside the Environment Ministry.

Ok Serei Sopheak, chairman of the board of directors at Transparency International Cambodia, who has participated in government waste decentralization discussions over the past three years, said the announcement was a welcome step in the right direction.

“It is a bit late, but better late than never,” he said, adding that the upcoming general election were likely spurring the government to making visible changes nationwide.

Waste management “is getting more messy, not only in Phnom Penh but all over, and it poses health threats,” he said.

The proposals would help existing provincial waste management master plans, he added.

By passing the torch to local authorities, “we are moving from having a plan to implementing it,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Janelle Retka)

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