Phnom Penh To Switch Dumpsites, Leaving Scavengers Hanging

Phnom Penh’s municipal dumpsite at Stung Meanchey is to be closed in June and will be replaced by a new landfill site at Choeung Ek commune at the edge of the capital, municipal officials said Wednesday. The officials also said scavengers making their living off the dump would no longer be able to collect recyclables at the new dumpsite.

Nhem Saran, director of the municipal department of public works and transportation, said the new site had been developed with the help of Japanese experts and was nearly complete.

“We will move to the new dumpsite in the middle or end of June,” he said, adding the site had been developed to high safety and environment standards and had cost around $1 million.

Sao Kuncchon, Phnom Penh’s waste management department director, said the new site will be fenced, and that dumped trash

will be covered by soil. “It would become a safe place to dump, it will not affect the environment,” he said, adding that he had promised local residents the dumpsite would not affect their neighborhood.

He said the new landfill site will cover 11 hectares. The former site covered 13 hectares, five of which were owned by residents of Stung Meanchey commune, he said.

Scavengers won’t be able to collect metal and plastic at the new dump as they do at the Stung Me­anchey site, Mr Sao Kuncchon said. “We don’t mean we don’t al­low the scavengers to collect scrap metal, but when we cover the trash with soil, if they collect trash it would be a mess,” he said.

Mr Sao Kuncchon said that in 2007 around 2,000 people made their living by scavenging at Stung Meanchey dump. He said he could only offer jobs for 10 of them at the new site, as the dump needs about 50 workers and 35 have already been hired. The municipality had urged NGOs in Stung Meanchey to help scavengers by giving them vocational training for jobs such as mechanics and cleaners, he said, adding that no municipality funding was available to support such training.

Prumden Soeurn, program man-ager of KDFO, a youth center providing free education and meals to children from poor families working on the dumpsite or from Stung Meanchey area, said scavenging families are “all very worried” ab­out the upcoming closure.

She added that organizations helping children of families working on the dump are concerned that when the site closes, the families will leave and pull their children from schools and educational programs provided by organizations in the area.

Around five of these organizations are offering programs for the garbage collectors that teach them new job skills, Mrs Prumden Soe­urn said, but she added that not many people had attended these programs. “They don’t think about the future, because they have to work: They need money now,” she said.

Mr Sao Kuncchon said municipality officials met with Detlef Gutjahr, a representative of the German Federal State of Thurin­gia, on April 13 and had agreed to let the German company Interna­tional Environmental Consulting conduct a feasibility study for

a project to cover the 40-year-old dumpsite at Stung Meanchey with earth, thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions and leakage of toxins from dumped waste and also enabling the generation of electricity 350 kilowatt hours per day from emitted gas.

He said he expected the Ger­man firm to complete the study and start its project in six months, but added that the municipality still must sign a contract with IEC.

Seng Chamroeun, vice president of Cintri Ltd, said he will welcome the new dumpsite if is well-run, but he also said the higher distance of the site from Phnom Penh will cost Cintri garbage trucks both time and fuel thereby reducing the company’s profits.

“We will need to sit down with City Hall to discuss this,” he said. Higher rates for customers, or fuel subsidies or payments from City Hall will be raised as possibilities, he added.

Mr Gutjahr said during a visit to Phnom Penh in November that Thuringia would fund the $6.5-million investment needed for the project by selling carbon credits earned by the reduction in gas emissions from sealing the old dump.

(Additional reporting by Tim Sturrock)


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