JICA Says Phnom Penh Garbage Problems Could Lead to Crisis

The inadequate collection and improper disposal of Phnom Penh’s growing trash mountain is reaching a crisis point, and a rise in collection fees may be necessary to address it, a workshop on solid waste management was told Tues­d­ay.

A newsletter distributed by the Japan International Cooperation Agency to the 63 delegates at the workshop stated that as outlying parts of Phnom Penh urbanized, many areas do not have access to proper waste collection services.

However, the public-private company partnership responsible for waste collection and disposal in Phnom Penh is at loggerheads over how to improve the situation.

Private company Cintri is responsible for collecting around 90 percent of the waste in Phnom Penh while the Phnom Penh Waste Ma­n­agement Company, a public en­terprise administered by City Hall, collects most of the rest and manages the municipal dump site in Meanchey district, according to the JICA newsletter.

The amount of waste deposited annually at the Stung Meanchey dump increased by 20 percent from 260,500 tons in 2004 to 327,000 tons in 2006. However, the total amount of waste generated by Phnom Penh is estimated to be a great deal more than is winding up at the dump, the newsletter adds.

Prach Sun, secretary of state at the Ministry of Environment, told the workshop that the method for collecting waste in Phnom Penh and other population centers is inadequate.

“While the service is better in towns, in some areas rubbish is just left on the streets,” he said.

The waste management workshop heard that some areas in Phnom Penh have little or no collection services because profitability is too low to merit extending the trash collection service.

The 50-year contract signed between City Hall and Cintri in 2003 gave exclusive rights to Cintri for waste collection. That means the municipality’s waste management service cannot provide collection services outside of designated areas without Cintri’s permission, which had so far not been given, JICA wrote.

Cintri say they can’t afford to improve their own service without an increase in waste collection rates.

An operations manager at Cintri, who asked not to be named, said by telephone that fees for waste collection are currently charged as part of businesses and household electricity bills, with the rate fixed by City Hall. At the moment, private households pay around one dollar per month while small to medium businesses pay between $2-5, he said.

PPWM Director Sao Kun Chhon said that Cintri had requested that collection fees be increased but City Hall had not yet decided on the matter.

“We are taking the request into consideration,” he said.

Sao Kun Chhon added that the dumping fee paid by Cintri for the use of the Stung Meanchey dumpsite should be increased to $4 per ton from the roughly $0.40 per ton the company currently pays.

But Cintri said it was impossible to pay extra tipping fees, as they were not making any profit.

“Around 30 to 40 percent of people in Phnom Penh are currently not paying [trash collection] fees,” the Cintri representative said.

The JICA report also stated that it is “critical” for PPWM to achieve controlled dumping as soon as possible at Stung Meanchey tip “in order to mitigate serious pollution problems at and around the site.”

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