More than 300 families from fishing communities in Siem Reap province’s Puok district have joined a campaign to collect plastic waste from areas around the Tonle Sap Lake and their houses.
The families from Peam Ta Uor village in the district’s Keo Poa commune expect to fill 2,000 bags with plastic waste before the seasonal rising of the lake floods their communities.
Sea Sophal, founder and president of the Tampaing Snong Russey Foundation, told The Post on July 20 that due to widespread community transmission of Covid-19, his organisation could not launch the annual plastic collection campaign before water levels of the Tonle Sap Lake rose. However, thousands of people still joined the campaign and people collected waste in their communities.
He said people had been collecting waste left behind when the water recedes, preventing the rubbish flowing into the river. If the waste is not collected, when water levels increase the rubbish floats into the river. So, it can badly affect the ecosystem, and pollute and damage the biodiversity of the river.
“During this campaign, we expect to collect by July 30 at least 2,000 bags of waste weighing six to 10 tonnes. So far, collectors have filled 1,669 bags,” he added.
He continued that this year, the campaign will last through July 30. The first 50 families began collecting waste on July 15 with the assistance of the Keo Poa commune administration. Participants will receive rice and other items for daily necessities.
Keo Poa commune chief San Chhoeury welcomed the campaign, saying the plastic waste was caused by vendors such as vegetable traders on boats and fish vendors on the lake.
He added that the water begins to rise from July and continues to September. During this time, if the waste is not collected, it will make the lake shallow and the water becomes deoxygenated and warm. Fish consume the waste, and it becomes entangled in boat propellers.
“We are currently collecting waste every day. On certain days, we collect 20 to 30 bags of plastic waste. I allowed them to transport the bags from the riverbank and put them in storage buildings at three places. A lot of waste was thrown overboard by passengers, vendors and fish traders on the Tonle Sap,” Chhoeury said.
Plastic waste collector Bung Sokha said more than 300 families have actively joined the campaign to collect plastic waste from the river and other locations to put it into storage.
“The commune chief allows us to collect it and people helped collect it from the mud, water and collect it in locations that motor boats use. After collecting it, we see the area is clean. So, people continue collecting waste,” he said.
Sea Sophal said plastic waste collected at people’s houses will be processed into medium-quality construction materials to be given to communities. Mud-stained plastic waste will be taken to a company in Siem Reap province that can legally process the waste.
His organisation will prepare another project in the future.