The EU-sponsored “Let’s Clean Up the Tonle Sap” campaign was officially announced this month to raise awareness of the importance of sanitation and waste management among the fishing communities of the eastern Tonle Sap Lake, while improving their economic situation.
The campaign is run in collaboration with several civil society organisations, Ministry of Rural Development, government institutions and the private sector. Contributers include Save the Children Cambodia, VSO Cambodia, iDE Cambodia, the University of Battambang, Wetlands International, and Tunsai Water.
According to a social media release by the organisers, the campaign aims to accomplish its goals by increasing access to clean water, sanitation and waste management services – such as pour-flush toilets – green economy initiatives and public education.
The campaign is being implemented in three provinces around the eastern Tonle Sap Lake – Kampong Chhnang, Kampong Thom and Pursat.
“Members of the community can make a difference to the lake by following these four simple steps. Dispose of your garbage correctly and use modern toilets to avoid open defection. Make sure you purify your water and wash your hands with soap regularly – especially after going to the bathroom and before preparing food,” said the organisers.
Moung Vandy, iDE Global innovation strategy officer, told The Post on January 16 that the campaign was launched this month and will run until at least 2025.
Vandy said his organisation would work closely with its partners to raise awareness of the importance of each of the campaign’s four main points and bring about a change in the mindset of the residents of the lake.
“Our main goal is to educate people so they understand why these things are important for their health and the health of their loved ones. We will provide information on how to follow each of these four guidelines. For example, if they do not know how to use a pour-flush toilet, we will give them instructions and explain how they work and how they help protect people,” he added.
He encouraged all members of the public to participate in the campaign, suggesting that they share or like its social media content and follow its Facebook page. He said the #LetsCleanUpTonleSap was being used to promote the campaign.
The Tonle Sap Lake has an area of as little as 2,500sq km during the dry season, but swells to up to 16,000sq km during the wet season, and was designated as a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 1997. It contributes to the economy through fisheries and agriculture, and its vast wetlands are a habitat for rich biodiversity.
Ministry of Environment secretary of state Neth Pheaktra warned that a lot of plastic waste entered the lake due to careless garbage disposal by the communities on the lake, and those living upstream from it.
An environment group Rethink Waste Cambodia said that when plastic waste falls into the water, some of it becomes toxic. When present in large numbers, these toxins can penetrate the soil and spread through the entire ecosystem. This represents a serious threat to the health of the entire food chain, including humans.