Canals Flood With Trash Again After Storms, Candidate Seeks Solution

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A canal in Phnom Penh’s Russei Keo has filled up with trash again, on May 24, 2022. (Meng Kroypunlok/VOD)

Residents and officials living around Phnom Penh’s canals say trash is quickly returning to waterways amid heavy rains, with at least one commune chief candidate promising to scrub the stench from garbage-clogged canals in his campaign.

Earlier this year, local officials in Phsar Doeum Thkov, Toul Sangke 1 and Boeng Tompun 1 communes launched campaigns to clear trash out of the canals that pass through their communes, reducing some but not all of the debris. But residents around these canals say that trash from the streets moved back into the canals after this month’s heavy rains, and the canals have started to smell.

Om Sarith, chief of Village 4 in Phsar Doeum Thkov, told VOD that no officials had come back to collect trash from the Boeng Trabek canal after the short campaign, and trash left on the street has started collecting in the canal. Usually, some officials from the commune would come to clear the canals around three or four times a year.

He said there’s been some improvement in the village’s litter, because garbage trucks have been coming more regularly to clear the streets and people have grown more aware of the importance of disposing trash in a bin, 

“People throw some away, but most of the rubbish flows out from the top [of the bins] when it rains,” he said.

Sarith said he was worried that the smell coming from trash in the Boeng Trabek canal would affect the village’s potential for development, and he has raised this issue with local officials.

“Responding to concerns about the bad smell from development has been a bit slow due to the [government’s focus on the] Covid-19 problem, but the government has tried,” he said.

In Boeng Tompun 1, another commune along the Boeng Trabek canal, resident Chea Khon said he was happy to see authorities make the effort to clean the canal, but they would have to clear more in order to stop the smell and floods of trash.

“If they have cleaned up all the rubbish, it would not make a flood when it rains and flood the people[‘s homes],” he said.

A canal in Phnom Penh’s Boeng Trabek has filled up with trash again, on May 24, 2022. (Meng Kroypunlok/VOD)
A canal in Phnom Penh’s Boeng Trabek has filled up with trash again, on May 24, 2022. (Meng Kroypunlok/VOD)

The garbage has also returned in Bak Touk Keo canal in Toul Sangke 1 commune, in Russei Keo district, said Phal Chhay Van, a fruit vendor in the area.

“As long as it rains, you know there is rubbish flowing,” she said. “If there is no rain, authorities will not often come to collect garbage.”

Toul Sangke 1 commune chief Leng Pha Voeun said the Bak Touk Keo canal often fills with trash when it rains, but officials can’t clean them every time.

“For a while, the team was busy, but they will be sent to clean up,” she said.

Phuon Keoreaksmey, an activist for environmental group Mother Nature, said the government would need to clean the canals more than once in order to make a substantial improvement in the environment around the canals. 

“I understand that this was their effort, but I want them to work harder than now,” she said.

If elected, Candlelight Party’s commune chief candidate in Toul Tom Poung 1 commune, a former CNRP activist Khoeun Bunthoeun, said he would make clearing trash out of the Boeng Trabek canal part of his agenda.

“We will try to educate people to dispose of garbage properly and also try to raise funds to buy more trash bins in public places,” he said.

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