In the north-western Cambodian city of Battambang, poor waste collection taints the otherwise tranquil environment for the quarter-million population and the increasing stream of tourists.
The municipal authority for years has been constrained by limited resources to improve the waste management service. Because of the inadequate collection service, around 75 per cent of households resort to burning, dumping or disposing of their waste into waterways and open spaces.
It is a perplexing reality, considering a composting plant operates in the city. Due to the poor collection service, the plant, which is independently owned by the Cambodian Education and Waste Management (COMPED) NGO, functions significantly below its potential.
In a 2011 COMPED survey, residents expressed concern about pollution and visible waste in the streets, odour from discarded waste and the deterioration of the local environment from current waste disposal practices. Conducted as part of the ESCAP regional project, Pro-Poor and Sustainable Solid Waste Management in Secondary Cities and Small Towns, that survey has introduced an agenda for a cleaner and healthier Battambang.
Although collection service remains a challenge, the composting system already in place offers a promising remedy for managing a large bulk of the city’s waste. First, it is in need of an upgrade in technology and a better system for receiving organic-only waste. Although the waste taken to the composting plant is mainly from the city markets, there is a problem with inorganic matter mixed in with the organic matter.
ESCAP is helping the city of Battambang and COMPED to improve the collaboration between all parties and initiate a process for separating waste at two of the town’s main markets to improve the quality of waste that can be used for composting and to increase the plant’s efficiency.