Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Lack of control at landfill fire

Lack of control at landfill fire

A large plume of smoke rises from the Dangkor Landfill in Phnom Penh on Friday.
A large plume of smoke rises from the Dangkor Landfill in Phnom Penh on Friday. Alessandro Marazzi Sassoon

Lack of control at landfill fire

As the fire at the capital’s Dangkor Landfill continues to smoulder one week on, officials on Monday acknowledged problems in waste management noncompliance and the public health threat caused by the fire’s pollution, but answers to what can be done to prevent a repeat remain elusive.

“Frankly speaking, the landfills in Cambodia are not fully compliant to the guidelines,” said Dy Kiden, the director of the Ministry of Environment’s Office of Solid Waste Management.

Kiden was quick to note that the management of the Dangkor Landfill – which has been burning since last Monday due to a build-up in methane gases underground – is the responsibility of municipal authorities and that at a national level the ministry has no mechanism to enforce the rules. However, Kiden said, the guidelines written by the ministry do include provisions that may have prevented this kind of fire.

“Generally . . . they should implement the mechanism to properly operate the landfill to prevent any fires and so on that may occur by chance,” he said, adding that “sometimes we can just ask the sub-national level to . . . correct the improper management”.

Landfill fires are known to pose considerable public health risks due to the fine particles and toxic compounds in the smoke. Health Ministry spokesman Ly Sovann on Friday had expressed concern over the putrid haze the Dangkor Landfill fire has caused for the city’s residents in the past week. On Monday, he said that so far data from the city’s public health centres have not picked up on an increase in respiratory illnesses.

In a statement to The Post, the World Health Organization’s country office said that 2012 data show that about 11.6 percent of all deaths can be attributed to air pollution.

“[These deaths are] largely as a result of increased mortality from stroke, heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer and acute respiratory infections,” it read.

Over 80 percent of urban dwellers globally are exposed to air quality levels that exceed WHO guidelines, particularly in low- and middle-income countries, the WHO said.

Ith Chenda, operations manager for Cintri, which delivers waste to the landfill, on Monday again distanced the company from responsibility for the fire.

“The site is under the management of the City Hall. Cintri is not responsible,” he said.

The Dangkor Landfill manager, Keo Chanrith, on Monday said that while reduced, burning continues at one of two dumpsites. Part of the problem, he said, is the lack of waste triage, as kitchen gas canisters and batteries that increase the risk of a fire should not be entering the landfill.

But landfill fires occur every dry season, he said, adding that there was little to be done to stop them.

“No matter what measures we have, or how hard we try to put [fires] out, we cannot put [them] out,” he said, adding that the main fire control measure is to pump water into the landfill.

“We don’t want to have smoke anymore,” he said. “There is an effect on health. I am frankly speaking that I regret this; I don’t want the fire to happen.”

MOST VIEWED

  • Massive stingrays may live in Mekong’s deep pools

    US scientists have suggested that unexplored deep pools in the Mekong River in an area of Stung Treng could potentially be home to significant populations of giant freshwater stingrays, one of the world’s largest freshwater fish species. This comes as a fisherman hooked a 180

  • CCC team off on US business trip

    The Kingdom’s leading economists and private sector representatives have called on the US to renew its tax preferential status for Cambodian exports, as a Cambodia Chamber of Commerce (CCC) delegation departed for a weeklong business visit to the US, where they will meet with

  • PM takes time to meet, greet Cambodians living in the US

    After landing in the US ahead of the ASEAN-US Special Summit, Prime Minister Hun Sen was received by over 1,000 Cambodian-Americans including political analysts who welcomed him with greetings, fist bumps and selfies. Hun Sen also met with analyst Mak Hoeun, who had allegedly spoken ill

  • Khmer cinema classics back on big screen for free at WB Arena’s outdoor movies series

    On a recent Saturday evening at WB Arena, Bunsong was enjoying a tasty BBQ meal with his family after work on the long tables that had been arranged out in front of the restaurant as they watched a Khmer action movie on a big outdoor

  • PM heads to Washington for ASEAN-US special summit

    Regional and international issues and how to bring the ASEAN-US partnership to another level will be discussed at length as Prime Minister Hun Sen and his ministers arrive in Washington, DC, for a special summit on May 12-13. During the trip, Hun Sen and ASEAN

  • National Assembly refutes EU resolution

    The National Assembly (NA) has hit back at a European Parliament resolution condemning the political and human rights situation in Cambodia, calling it another display of the Parliament’s “double standards”. Key points of the resolution include a warning that the Parliament could exclude the