More than 400 residents and local authorities in Siem Reap province dedicated two days to collecting plastic waste in the Chong Kneas community, while about 100 volunteer training groups continued training almost 700 families to prepare them for cleaning up the shorelines of the Tonle Sap Lake once the waters descended.

On November 25-26, the provincial administration’s Department of Environment – in collaboration with the NGO2 BambooShoot Foundation and the Chong Kneas commune chief – organised a cleanup to mark November 23, National Environmental Sanitation Day, under the theme “It is our duty to keep the motherland clean and green”.

The programme was attended by members of the provincial administration, the armed forces, monks, tourism committees and representatives of civil society organisations, the Cambodian Red Cross and the Union of Youth Federations of Cambodia.

Environment department director Sun Kong said the day was aimed at encouraging the public to pay closer attention to the disposal of plastic waste. This would attract domestic and international tourist, who would add to the local economy.

“We carried out several activities, including picking up trash at the banks of the flooded forests and in the floating villages. We also conducted outreach programmes and provided bags for people to keep their plastic waste in, so they would not dump it in the lake,” he said.

Sea Sophal, director of NGO2 BambooShoot, told The Post on November 27 that the two-day large-scale rally was held on November 25-26 to promote the day and the commitment of all stakeholders to cleaning up the lake. After the event, working groups would an education campaign in the Chong Khneas community, to help them clean up their environment and participate in the proper storage of plastic waste. About 100 training teams would continue working until the lake has receded.

“This year we are running a campaign called ‘Clean Chong Kneas, Green Tonle Sap, Without Plastic.’ We are focusing on nearly 700 families in floating villages,” he said.

“It is now the dry season and the water is starting to recede. Each household will participate in cleaning up plastic until January,” he added.

According to Sophal, the campaign is focused on two outcomes. Encouraging the communities of the lake to participate in regular clean ups, and creating programmes to help them understand the importance of separating plastic waste.

“We focus on the plastic that they can see in the environment around them – outside their houses, on the river, and in the branches of the trees. We will teach them to pick them up whenever they see them, and have prepared posters and illustrations to help them understand the links between trash and environmental damage,” he said.

The BambooShoot Foundation (NGO2) and its partner organisation Ocean Recovery Alliance have announced their support for the Chong Kneas community to implement a three-year waste management and plastic retrieval programme in the Tonle Sap Lake from the end of November.

Besides the Chong Kneas community, the two organisations also encourage other Tonle Sap communities to clean up plastic waste annually in their respective locations.