04/03/2019, 14.54
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Waste piling up in Sihanoukville

Garbage collectors are hard to retain because of low wages. Residents and NGOs want the only waste collecting company replaced. The authorities blame the problem on the area’s rapid development and on residents’ poor awareness of waste disposal procedures. In 2017, 170 tonnes were collected every day rising to more than 300 tonnes in 2018. And the amount keeps on rising each month.

Phnom Penh (AsiaNews/Agencies) – For weeks, garbage has been piling up in Sihanoukville (Preah Sihanouk), the capital of the south-western province of Preah Sihanouk, with residents and civil society groups complaining about the foul odour.

Faced with the waste emergency, the authorities have blamed the rapid development of the coastal region and residents’ lack of awareness of waste disposal procedures.

Making matters worse, hiring and retaining waste collection workers is a tough sell because of low wages and better job opportunities in other sectors.

Sihanoukville residents and some NGOs recently asked the local administration to replace KSWM, the only waste collector.

In mid-March, the company bought new garbage trucks, but according to critics it failed to use them efficiently. Only some piles of rubbish were collected, whilst others were left on the roadside for a week.

KSWM’s representative Heng Peng Hak told state-run news agency Agence Kampuchea Presse that that Sihanoukville produced more than 170 tonnes of rubbish per day in 2017 and more than 300 tonnes per day last year, with the amount increasing month after month.

Sihanoukville Municipal Governor Y Sokleng said that residents are not aware of proper waste disposal procedures, whilst the 200 or so waste collectors are not enough to meet actual demands.

“Last week, waste was left uncollected for two to four days as 30 to 40 waste collectors quit their job,” he said. “Some workers took leave to visit their hometown, while others just left for other jobs. That has led to piles of rubbish scattered on city streets.”

Sokleng said the company had informed him of its difficulties in recruiting more waste collectors as prospective employees generally opt for higher-paying jobs in the city.

For example, even security guards can earn a salary of up to 0, much more than the meagre wages earned by waste collectors.

Still, the issue, the governor remains optimistic. “Waste was not collected for only several days. Now everything is returning to normal,” he explained.

“The firm has also hired some workers from a sugar plantation which has more than enough workers and agreed to send them to collect waste here,” he added.

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