Phnom Penh’s sewage problem (video)

Reading Time: 2 minutes

The population of Cambodia’s capital Phnom Penh has doubled to 2 million over the past 15 years, and foreign investors, attracted by the country’s high growth potential, are pouring billions of dollars into new residential and commercial development projects – facing the fact that the city has no functioning wastewater treatment system and raw sewage is simply discarded into the city’s lakes and waterways, contributing to raising health hazards especially during the regular floods the city experiences in the rainy season.

An expat working with foreign developers in Phnom Penh told Inside Investor on condition of anonymity that the current sewage pipe infrastructure is decades-old and the city does not have a single sewage treatment plant. Thus, raw sewage from all over the area flows into open canals and the city’s lakes of Boeung Tumpun and Boeung Cheung Aek, as well as into the Boeung Kob Srov in the northwest and then into the rivers that feed the Mekong.

“Lack of infrastructure and lack of funds is becoming a big problem for Cambodia. Some of the infrastructure is 100 years old. Most private developers cannot afford the infrastructure for new their new developments, neither can the city administration. The Ministry of Urban Planning just rubber stamps developments because they lack the expertise,” the source said.

Although the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has been working with Phnom Penh’s City Hall since 1999 to improve the drainage system, there is still no plan to install a wastewater treatment plant in order to prevent the vast amounts of raw sewage being pumped into the lakes.

There are also no complete plans of the underground drainage network and limited means to ensure that piping is properly maintained. Authorities don’t even have data on how much sewage the city currently produces. There are also no studies on the environmental and health impact the dirty water has on residents and freshwater quality.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Wastewater is directly discarded into the Tonle Sap river in Phnom Penh

Currently, when the raw sewage arrives in the city’s lakes, water plants are partially purifying the sewage through natural processes. However, the water remains contaminated with bacteria when it eventually makes its way through the pumping stations that connect the lakes with the Tonle Sap and Tonle Bassac rivers that connect to the Mekong.

JICA is currently constructing 20 kilometers of additional piping in central Phnom Penh, a project funded by donations from Japan. But the main problem remains the maintenance of the old pipe network that is up to 80 per cent clogged with rubbish and mud.

Ongoing property developments will add thousands of new households to the system in the coming years, and JICA said that there will be “some hard effects” in the future if developers give not enough thought to the sewage problem. Some gated communities are helping themselves by setting up septic tanks to collect residents’ waste, but even these are just emptied into the lakes by waste disposal companies.

 

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Reading Time: 2 minutes

The population of Cambodia’s capital Phnom Penh has doubled to 2 million over the past 15 years, and foreign investors, attracted by the country’s high growth potential, are pouring billions of dollars into new residential and commercial development projects – facing the fact that the city has no functioning wastewater treatment system and raw sewage is simply discarded into the city’s lakes and waterways, contributing to raising health hazards especially during the regular floods the city experiences in the rainy season.

Reading Time: 2 minutes

The population of Cambodia’s capital Phnom Penh has doubled to 2 million over the past 15 years, and foreign investors, attracted by the country’s high growth potential, are pouring billions of dollars into new residential and commercial development projects – facing the fact that the city has no functioning wastewater treatment system and raw sewage is simply discarded into the city’s lakes and waterways, contributing to raising health hazards especially during the regular floods the city experiences in the rainy season.

An expat working with foreign developers in Phnom Penh told Inside Investor on condition of anonymity that the current sewage pipe infrastructure is decades-old and the city does not have a single sewage treatment plant. Thus, raw sewage from all over the area flows into open canals and the city’s lakes of Boeung Tumpun and Boeung Cheung Aek, as well as into the Boeung Kob Srov in the northwest and then into the rivers that feed the Mekong.

“Lack of infrastructure and lack of funds is becoming a big problem for Cambodia. Some of the infrastructure is 100 years old. Most private developers cannot afford the infrastructure for new their new developments, neither can the city administration. The Ministry of Urban Planning just rubber stamps developments because they lack the expertise,” the source said.

Although the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has been working with Phnom Penh’s City Hall since 1999 to improve the drainage system, there is still no plan to install a wastewater treatment plant in order to prevent the vast amounts of raw sewage being pumped into the lakes.

There are also no complete plans of the underground drainage network and limited means to ensure that piping is properly maintained. Authorities don’t even have data on how much sewage the city currently produces. There are also no studies on the environmental and health impact the dirty water has on residents and freshwater quality.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Wastewater is directly discarded into the Tonle Sap river in Phnom Penh

Currently, when the raw sewage arrives in the city’s lakes, water plants are partially purifying the sewage through natural processes. However, the water remains contaminated with bacteria when it eventually makes its way through the pumping stations that connect the lakes with the Tonle Sap and Tonle Bassac rivers that connect to the Mekong.

JICA is currently constructing 20 kilometers of additional piping in central Phnom Penh, a project funded by donations from Japan. But the main problem remains the maintenance of the old pipe network that is up to 80 per cent clogged with rubbish and mud.

Ongoing property developments will add thousands of new households to the system in the coming years, and JICA said that there will be “some hard effects” in the future if developers give not enough thought to the sewage problem. Some gated communities are helping themselves by setting up septic tanks to collect residents’ waste, but even these are just emptied into the lakes by waste disposal companies.

 

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