Minister bemoans street trash
Phnom Penh, 15 May 2012: The Cambodian government has ordered a campaign to clean up garbage that is piling up on the streets of Phnom Penh the capital all for the sake of tourists.
The Phnom Penh Post reported yesterday that Tourism Minister, Thong Khon, said the capital would look better and appeal more to tourists “if there was not so much paper and plastic flying around and piling up on the streets.”
Cambodia’s government is keen to nurture a positive tourism image, but the reality is that the quality of life for citizens has remained largely unchanged despite the billions earned from tourism over the last 15 years.
Most of the revenue goes to the pockets of corporations with close links to the administration. This is illustrated by the substantial profits earned from daily tourist fee charges at Angkor Wat, that are not used to improve the standard of living of citizens in Siem Reap.
Cleaning up the streets is way down the priority list for most Cambodians, but tourism officials such as Mr Thong Khon would like them to clean up their act to ensure the country can turn a profit from eco-tourism or earn what he calls “green gold” for a privileged few.
“It’s difficult to get this to work. There needs to be participation from the public. Trash is a big challenge for developing green tourism,” he said.
He said the government will ask Cambodians to cut back on their use of plastic and paper products. Cambodia imported almost 56,000 tonnes of plastic last year, up 21% from the year before, according to a project document.
More than 18% of Cambodia’s waste is inorganic, and the project would focus on reducing the percentage of trash first in the capital, Phnom Penh, which has 1,300 tonnes of sitting waste, of which 16% is plastic and 3% paper.
“We can’t eliminate plastic in the short term, but reduction is very important. If we want to reduce it, we have to know about management and alternatives,” Mr Thong Khon said.