GPS Tracking System Could Be Answer to City’s Garbage Problem

Keeping ahead of Phnom Penh’s mounting piles of garbage has proved tough for Cintri since it was awarded sole rights in 2002 to keep the city clean. But a new plan harnessing global satellite positioning and digital mapping is offering the company a high-tech helping hand.

The pilot project, which will run for six months, will be limited to Daun Penh district. Initially, it will monitor 14 aging garbage trucks using GPS and geographic information systems (GIS) mapping software to streamline collections and highlight problems encountered on routes.

“We installed GPS on the 14 trash trucks a few days ago but the program hasn’t started yet as we are still training staff how to use the software,” said Seng Bunrith, a senior manager at Cintri. He added that computerized monitoring systems will be installed next week at Cintri offices and at City Hall.

The project is not yet operational, but will be managed by Asia Foundation’s urban services department after the NGO signed a memorandum of understanding with City Hall and Cintri on April 3.

In 2002, Cintri was awarded a 50-year contract. But Phnom Penh’s population has grown from 1.2 million people in 2000 to about 2.2 million today. Faced with this growth, Cintri has been heavily criticized for failing to keep the city clean. In October, Phnom Penh governor Pa Socheatvong warned Cintri that it needed to do a better job or its contract would be canceled.

The new monitoring system operates online and the data collected by Asia Foundation will be easily accessible by Cintri and City Hall via a cloud-based database. Municipal spokesman Long Dimanche said he was hopeful that the system would prove a cutting-edge solution to the rudimentary problem of waste.

“If the pilot scheme is successful in helping to control garbage collection in the city center, we will look to expanding it to other districts,” he said.

Jon Morales, program manager for Asia Foundation’s urban services department, said that for a long time, shortcomings in the city’s waste-collection service have resulted in a lot of finger pointing. But not much has been done in the way of research or proper data.

“There are few NGOs looking into municipal waste management here or trying to find ways to improve it in terms of sustainability and governance,” he said. He said Asia Foundation interns will hit the streets and monitor trash collection in the test district.

“Right now, the service is all manual, customers call in, humans go around picking up,” he said. “But by turning it into a geographical system, we can track where trash appears during the day to target proper enforcement—whether changes to the routes are needed, for example, or if trash is being left in the wrong places at the wrong times of the day.”

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