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Volunteers mark World Cleanup Day

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Students and environment lovers observe World Cleanup Day on September 17 by picking up waste along the Tonle Sap River in the capital’s Chroy Changvar district. RIVER OCEAN CLEANUP

Volunteers mark World Cleanup Day

More than 600 volunteers from state institutions, the private sector and civil society organisations (CSOs), predominantly young people, gathered to celebrate World Cleanup Day on September 17 to draw public attention to the major waste problem that is affecting the planet.

World Cleanup Day has been celebrated in Cambodia every year since 2018. The day was established by the Let’s Do It World NGO from Estonia, and 180 countries now participate each year.

The NGO River Ocean Cleanup announced on September 17 that to celebrate this year’s day, the volunteers would clear up riverfront area on the Chroy Changvar peninsula near Sokha Phnom Penh Hotel. A German-designed garbage collection boat would clean up the river.

“This is a bold step towards protecting the future of our planet. We would like to thank our sponsors … and the Chroy Changvar district authorities and volunteers from other institutions,” it said.

Ministry of Environment spokesman Neth Pheaktra said the celebration would remind people of the need to clean up the environment and pay more attention to waste disposal.

“We need to make sure we are cleaning up the environment as often as we can, of course, but setting September 17 attracts people’s attention and reminds them of the importance of maintaining a clean, orderly city,” he said.

On September 17, the Ministry of Tourism also organised a campaign themed “Clean Cambodia, Green Cambodia: Celebrate World Cleanup Day”, which was attended by environment ministry officials and about 300 stakeholders.

According to an announcement, the campaign aims to encourage all stakeholders to participate in cleaning up the environment and creating a “green Cambodia” ahead of the 2023 Southeast Asian (SEA) Games.

Ken Serey Ratha, director-general of the environment ministry’s General Directorate of Environmental Knowledge and Information who participated in the campaign, said socio-economic growth in all areas had made people’s lives more prosperous and demanded a more civilised, beautiful, clean and green environment.

He said his general directorate has been organising a programme to “change the mindset of some Cambodian people so that they understand and participate in the implementation of environmental friendliness”.

He added that the event will encourage the local authorities to pay more attention to ensuring their villages and communes are hygienic and beautiful. A community that is in harmony with its environment will be more attractive to national and international tourists, he said, adding that this was one of the benefits he expected the Clean Cambodia, Green Cambodia campaign to bring.

“As members of a prosperous society, it is our duty and responsibility to make sure the environment is hygienic, beautiful and clean,” he said.

According to a UNESCO report, about one million marine animals die each year after swallowing or becoming entangled in plastic litter in the ocean.

Plastics do not dissolve in the soil easily. Almost all of the plastic that has been produced in the past is still present. Eventually, rain, wind, and tides mean that almost all garbage that is thrown into rivers and lakes ends up in the sea, CSOs said.

Currently, Cambodia generates more than 10,000 tonnes of waste a day, 65 to 68 per cent of which is organic waste that can be processed into compost or fertiliser, while 10 per cent is solid waste and more than 20 per cent is plastic.

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