Phnom Penh’s Trash Problem Bigger Than Cintri, Company Says

Cintri, Phnom Penh’s sole trash-collection company, said on Tuesday that the firm was not to blame for the capital’s trash-strewn streets and that the government was using it as a scapegoat to avoid accepting responsibility for the problem.

Cintri’s aging fleet of trash trucks have in recent years been the target of City Hall’s wrath, with a succession of strikes by drivers and trash collectors leaving the company regularly unable to clear garbage from the roads.

Motorists drive past a Cintri truck stopped on the side of a street in Phnom Penh yesterday. (Matt Walker)
Motorists drive past a Cintri truck stopped on the side of a street in Phnom Penh on Tuesday. (Matt Walker)

Tired of taking the heat for the mess from angry citizens, the Council of Ministers on February 10 ordered a review of Cintri’s 2002 contract, which guarantees the company the exclusive right to municipal garbage collection for 49 years.

In case there was any doubt about the government’s position, the vote of no confidence was reiterated in both the opening and closing speeches of City Hall’s annual meeting last week.

But Cintri chairman Seng Savy said Tuesday the struggle to keep on top of the city’s ever-mounting trash went much deeper than his firm’s perceived failings.

“Cintri rejects that it does not have the ability to collect the trash in Phnom Penh and cannot accept the Council of Minister’s evaluation,” Mr. Savy said, adding that longstanding infrastructure deficiencies have not been addressed.

“Phnom Penh has had a problem with garbage for a very long time,” he said.

In the face of growing criticism, Cintri has repeatedly said its shortcomings are symptoms of issues beyond its control. Mr. Savy said these were not excuses, but legitimate reasons for why it was so difficult to do a satisfactory job.

“There are traffic jams [and] disorderly parking that blocks collection routes, there is nowhere local for people to store trash, the municipality is repairing many roads in Phnom Penh. All these factors make it difficult for the company’s trucks to collect trash,” he said.

Mr. Savy added that Cintri’s only goal was to do the best it could to keep the city clean. But without the cooperation of officials and residents, he said, plenty of obstacles remained.

“I don’t see the point in saying that Cintri does not do a good enough job collecting the trash,” he said. “It does not matter what company they get to invest, they won’t be able to do the job unless they get help from the public and local authorities.”

City Hall spokesman Long Dimanche on Tuesday said Mr. Savy was out of line.

“The company will have the right to negotiate when they are invited by the relevant ministries, but rejecting the Council of Ministers’ report is defiance of the government,” he said.

The Council of Ministers said in its statement last week that it would confer with City Hall and the Environment Ministry before deciding how to proceed.

Environment Ministry spokesman Sao Sopheap said Tuesday that his ministry and the Interior Ministry would consider proposals by interested companies while a review of the existing trash-management system is carried out.

“If we find that Cintri is incapable…we will choose another company to help them collect trash,” he said.

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