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Ministry to review bill on sewage, wastewater

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
The Boeung Trabek canal​ in Phnom Penh’s Chamkarmon district on Thursday. Hong Menea

Ministry to review bill on sewage, wastewater

The Ministry of Public Works and Transport is working to expedite the drafting of the law on wastewater and sewage.

The ministry is expecting that this draft law will help prevent the unauthorised drainage of wastewater and improve the sewage system in the country while further developing sewage infrastructure significantly.

On January 6, Kem Borey – undersecretary of state and deputy head of the ministry’s working group – chaired a meeting to discuss the draft law.

Borey set the agenda for the meeting, saying they would discuss Article 30 of the draft law in order to revise and define the wording more clearly and comprehensively so as to avoid misinterpretation during its implementation.

“We wanted to have a meeting to review the draft law for some time but had not been able to do so due to Covid-19. But early this year our team is going to continue the examination of the draft law,” he said.

He also instructed the working group to revise the procedures for the meeting to speed up the law’s preparation.

Ministry secretary of state and spokesman Pal Chandara told The Post on January 7 that Cambodia needed to have this law in order to properly implement wastewater management because of the risks to public health that the lack of it may present. This, he said, was especially true at this time because the nation is experiencing robust economic development and increasing activity in the construction and infrastructure sectors.

Chandara said the ministry hopes that there would be more involvement from relevant institutions, lawyers and civil society to make sure that this law comes into force.

“At the current stage, we are working internally in the ministry’s working group and we will continue to have meetings to get input from relevant institutions. This draft law is going to provide clarity by imposing acceptable standards [for wastewater management] that are in line with what other developing countries have adopted [in order to create regulatory certainty for investors and developers].

“Our country has a general department to manage these issues but we don’t have any laws yet,” he said.

Hem Odom, an environmental expert, praised the establishment of this law which he thought was long overdue.

He said that currently the wastewater and sewage management systems that Cambodia continues to use are left over from the French-Colonial era with only minimal improvements.

He worries that, when left unmanaged, wastewater or sewage systems can have a serious impact on the environment.

For example, he said, if wastewater were to leak into [lakes or other water sources] it could harm people’s health.

“Like in Phnom Penh, we can see that every time we have flooding the water flows slowly which could indicate that it is contaminated with sewage.

“The government should [finish their deliberations] on the draft law as soon as possible so that they can begin enforcing it as soon as possible,” he said.

Odom hopes that when this law comes into force, the authorities will clearly allocate responsibilities for management of these systems from top to bottom and define which ministry or department is ultimately in charge of managing this problem in order to avoid bureaucratic conflicts and attempts at blame-shifting.

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