Residents are complaining that the government has dumped at least 40 truckloads of sewage next to their farms and homes on the outskirts of Phnom Penh since the Khmer New Year.
They complain of headaches and mild illnesses from the smell of the waste, which comes from hotels, homes and factories and fills a 100-square-meter pit on municipal land adjacent to a pond, farms and homes in Dangkao commune.
“I usually have a headache when I smell this thing,” said 15-year-old Suon Thoeun, who drives cows past the area frequently.
The newly created municipal sewage authority has been doing the dumping because the sewage must be prevented from spilling into the Tonle Sap River, authority director Ouk Van said Thursday.
The waste is not harmful to human health, said Nhem Saran, directory of the municipal public works department.
“This could be a little [environmentally damaging], but if the waste is released directly into the river, it will be very harmful,” he said.
The city was forced to pump the waste into the field in Dangkao until a new dump site is located, Ouch Van said, adding the site was only “temporary.”
Contacted Thursday night, Phnom Penh Governor Chea Sophara said he would not allow the site to remain.
“I will order them to remove it tomorrow,” he said. The city has another dump site in Meanchey district, which it has been using for the past 20 years, he said. The Dangkao sludge will be moved there, he said.
Currently, Phnom Penh lacks any kind of storage facilities for sewage waste, he said, adding he anticipated it would become “a very big problem” in the near future.
The city needs $300,000 to buy land and build a proper dump site, Chea Sophara said. However, he said, “there is no financial support.”