Vote Garbage Can!

A pile of trash litters a canal in Phnom Penh on March 29, 2019. Photo by TANG CHHIN Sothy / AFP

During the 1998 national election, a political party had made the construction of latrines in every village of the country one of the major themes of its campaign. The other political parties, as well as the media, had not missed the opportunity to disparage this party, lambasting it for its lack of vision for Cambodia.

Economic development, human rights, freedom of expression, justice, corruption: These were the noble themes that every politician had to address with the electors, and definitely not this vulgar topic of public toilets. And yet, a political party that pretends to work for the wellbeing of the population must also be concerned with health issues even if this does not make electors dream or get them excited. And at the time, the shortfall in sanitary facilities deserved more than sarcasm. 

Nearly 30 years later, another public health matter would deserve to be addressed seriously by the political elites: that of garbage, and especially plastic waste. Quite frankly: The countryside in the kingdom is looking more and more like open-air landfills. Many tourists leave the country disgusted. Of course, they have admired the temples, and yes, they have appreciated the cleanliness of Siem Reap and of some sites, but they have also seen the sides of the roads covered with plastic bags, rice fields soiled by illegal dumping. In numerous villages, private areas are clean unlike those that are part of the common good.

As time passes, the situation seems to be getting worse in spite of the clean-up campaigns or the awareness campaigns on the damaging effects of plastic waste occasionally conducted by the authorities or at the initiative of civic organizations. Economic growth fuels consumption, which inevitably generates garbage.      

Here, the waste collection and disposal system are at an early stage. To support growth without putting in place appropriate waste management would be insulting the future.  

Dear candidates, speak to us of garbage cans. We will not see this as an insult but, on the contrary, as visionary.  


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