Updated: Arei Ksat Village Flooded With Garbage

5 min read
Trash piles up on the streets of Arei Ksat, Kandal, on October 29, 2022. (Daniel Zak)
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Just across the Mekong from Phnom Penh, in Arei Ksat, trash is piling up in front of homes, shops, hospitals and on public street corners.

“We haven’t seen a garbage truck in more than two weeks,” said Tha Sreyleak. She explained that a local company, i-Recycling, would generally pick up the trash every five days for 10,000 riel per month, or about $2.5.

But now the garbage has been piling up for half a month, and has even contaminated the water in the well behind her house, which she described as turning blackish brown. Others have said they haven’t had their garbage picked up since around the Pchum Ben festival, a major holiday which took place a month ago.

Local authorities say the problem has been caused by flooding at the local dumpsite, and they are working to find a temporary storage place for the trash until the water recedes.

In the meantime, residents have been having to find ways to deal with their own garbage, they said this weekend. Some have burned it, or taken it on the ferry with them to Phnom Penh. Many have opted to throw their garbage on public street corners.

Trash piles up on the streets of Arei Ksat, Kandal, on October 29, 2022. (Daniel Zak)
Trash piles up on a street corner in Arei Ksat on October 29, 2022. (Daniel Zak)

“If I see them I tell them not to dump it here … it’s a public place, nobody is picking it up,” said Phol Cham Thoeun, who operates a small drink and snack kiosk just across the road from where one of these communal dumping areas has sprung up. She said she tries to explain to neighbors that throwing their garbage there causes more problems, but they generally put out the garbage during the night when she isn’t there to chastise them. The garbage pile is now threatening to spill onto the road.

“I have to wear a mask all day because the smell makes me sick,” she said. Her children were there with her. She said that the owner of i-Recycling had once stopped to buy a drink at her kiosk, and told her that she would have to take care of the garbage herself until a new landfill could be dug.

At a nearby maternity hospital, workers said they were looking into finding a private company to get rid of the garbage piling up in front of their building. They complained that they had to constantly watch it to keep animals from tearing it apart and spreading germs around.

One resident, who wanted to be identified only as Phea, said that when she takes her daughter to school she is overwhelmed by the stench from the pile outside the classrooms. She joked it was likely that once the garbage situation in Arei Ksat was publicized on the news, i-Recycling would suddenly find a way to take care of the commune.

According to residents, the company has said that recent rains in an unusually long wet season have flooded their landfill, so they cannot take any more garbage until a new one is prepared. When that will be complete is unclear, as rain is still falling frequently and roads to the far off landfills are difficult to cross for large vehicles.

Trash piles up on the streets of Arei Ksat, Kandal, on October 29, 2022. (Daniel Zak)
Trash piles up on the streets of Arei Ksat, Kandal, on October 29, 2022. (Daniel Zak)

i-Recycling has not responded to a request for comment.

Chuon Darapong, Lvea Em district’s deputy governor, said five of the communes in his district shared a dumpsite in Peam Okhna Ong, but it was in an area of low elevation and flooded during the rainy season. The landfill had been flooded for a month and collectors could not drive their trucks to the site for three weeks, he said.

The company, which had only started working in the area this year, met with officials in early October about the situation. The district governor said he asked the company to use empty land near a pagoda in Arei Ksat to temporarily store the trash until the water receded at the dumpsite, he said.

“During this rainy season, companies can’t work on that because of more rain, and the roads are also difficult,” he said. “I have advised the company to look for a possible place to put it temporarily and wait for our dumpsite to dry up.”

Update at 5 p.m.

Lvea Em deputy district governor Chuon Darapong called back VOD this afternoon to say he had visited the trash piles during lunchtime, and heard from the collection company’s workers that they had begun moving trash to the pagoda lot within the past day.

He said it should take one or two more days to clear the streets. However, residents should not be putting more trash on the street, and he recommended that they put their trash in their backyards until the dumpsite is available again.

“They need to be understanding. When the dumpsite dries, the workers will restart collection,” Darapong said.

Additional reporting by Ouch Sony

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