Trash collectors were working overtime Thursday to clean the vast piles of garbage that had accumulated in Phnom Penh this week after their four-day strike for higher wages.
Although workers returned to their duties after agreeing to a pay raise of between $20 and $25 per month on Wednesday, the garbage piles around Phnom Penh had grown so large and plentiful that Cintri, the company that holds the contract to collect the city’s trash, decided to focus on cleaning up central districts.
“The garbage trucks are driving additional rounds because so much garbage has accumulated…. This week, we need to collect garbage from four districts first,” Cintri’s operations manager, Ngoun Sipheng, said Thursday.
More than half of Cintri’s almost 1,000 staff were tasked to focus on Chamkar Mon, Daun Penh, Prampi Makara and Tuol Kok districts, which would likely be cleaned up by the end of the weekend.
“Next week, we will clean all the rest of the city,” Mr. Sipheng said.
To speed things up, Cintri also asked for the municipality’s permission to dump garbage on abandoned plots of land before taking it to the main garbage dump, located near Choeung Ek, about 15 km from the city center.
The smell of the piles of garbage, which are waist-high at points, drew complaints not just from city residents, but also from trash collectors themselves.
“This trash is difficult to collect because it stinks and there are a lot of worms, cockroaches and poisonous centipedes,” Ret Pheara, a trash collector with three years experience, said Thursday.
Besides the odor nuisance, the garbage piles could also pose a danger for public health, the World Health Organization said Thursday.
Sonny Krishnan, WHO communications officer, said that rats, mice, cockroaches and flies attracted to garbage could spread a large number of diseases such as intestinal and diarrheal diseases.
“We are concerned by diseases carried by rodents…. People should keep their children and pets away from the garbage piles, because they could get infected,” Mr. Krishnan said.