Towering piles of decomposing garbage are growing by the day inside the Borei Keila apartment complex and threatening the health of more than 100 families who were evicted from the area in January but have steadily returned to live in makeshift tents around the buildings.
Behind Borei Keila’s eight apartment blocks on land owned by the Phanimex company in Phnom Penh’s Prampi Makara district, mounds as high as 5 meters give off a putrid smell right next to a row of food sellers and shops.
In one location, the garbage has grown so high that it now reaches the second floor of one of the apartment blocks, which were built to relocate those who used to live on the Borei Keila land.
But no one wants to take responsibility for the situation; residents living in the apartments who hurl their trash from their balconies declined to comment. A building chief in one of the blocks said the residents have ignored her pleas for them to stop their high-rise littering, and staff of the municipality’s waste disposal company, Cintri, said it is not their job to clear the rat-and-mosquito infested mounds.
“It gives off a really bad smell, and it’s been building up for nearly three years,” said Say Sam Aun, 42, a meat seller, who periodically wafts a stick with a plastic bag attached to it in order to shoo away the large flies swarming around her stall.
Her sister, Eng Thorn, 53, is one of the roughly 100 families who have returned to live in makeshift tarpaulin-and-wood dwellings at the base of the apartment blocks, and in the stairwells, after they were violently evicted from Borei Keila almost a year ago and sent to a relocation site about 40 km from Phnom Penh.
“I am very worried about the garbage and living under these conditions,” Ms. Thorn said. “What I am most worried about is the mosquitoes from the garbage, and living without a roof.”
“The rats sometimes bite our children and the mosquitoes, in the rainy season, get really bad,” said Prak Sopha, 44. “At night, the rats come from the garbage and run into our tents.”
Chhay Kimhorn, 34, another of the evicted residents who has returned to live among the mounds of trash, said tenants living in the apartment blocks throw their refuse from the upper floors, despite appeals from those living down below to stop.
Ms. Kimhorn said that the 100 families living on the ground floor are using bins provided by Cintri, the city’s privately-run trash collection firm, to dispose of their waste.
“But the people living upstairs— they don’t care,” she said.
Cintri empties the three steel bins daily, but the giant piles of garbage are not their responsibility, said Ork Rotha, a Cintri trash collector at the site. “We would need a lot more workers” to clear the mounds, Mr. Rotha said.
The chief of Building 4, Kim Sophoan, said she has tried to talk to her residents, both above and below, about the garbage problem, but to no avail.
“We have difficulty managing the people here because they are living in anarchy,” Ms. Sophoan said of both the ground and upper floors.
“They do not understand about the maintenance of their health and sanitation,” she said.
Prom Yan, 90, who lives on the second floor of Building 4, denied throwing her trash onto the ground, though she said there are others who did so.
“When I see people throwing the garbage, I tell them not to do it and I also told the building chief about it,” Ms. Yan said yesterday at her apartment, which was filled with the ripe smell of rotting food.
“I feel so bad for the people on the ground, and sometimes I myself get sick from the smell.”
Living on the fifth floor of the same building, Dul Vy, 34, admitted that she disposed of her garbage over the edge of her balcony, but declined to say anything more.