On my next-to-last day in Phnom Penh, I visited the Stung Mean Chey Disposal Site, the big municipal dump in the southwest corner of the city. Lucky for me, the hot season hadn't arrived, so the temperature and flies weren't bad.
There's a big sign at the entrance explaining recent developments: the dumpsite is managed by the Phnom Penh Waste Management Division, and financed by JICA, the Japan International Cooperation Agency. Recent improvements include construction of a sanitary landfill, placement of cover soil, leachate treatment, and gas removal by means of vertical standpipes.
The draw for me is the scavengers ekeing out a living by searching for saleable, that is recyclable, items in the garbage stream. I figure people must be desperate to do this every day, but they are calm and appear to treat each other in a civil manner. I think it's an unpleasant but dignified occupation.
The garbage is definitely just that: no slightly-damaged DVD players or half-eaten buckets of KFC chicken. Fortunately, there appears to be little dangerous content here such as medical waste, sharp metal objects and broken glass.
His shirt is likely the closest he'll ever get to the USA.
It may not be a hygienic canteen, but working people gotta eat.
The fortunate can afford boots; the others...
These girls were nice enough to take me to their homes at the dumpsite periphery.
Some kinda place to grow up, huh?
Outside at the entrance to the dump is where scavengers can sell their pickings: 500 Riels (about 12 cents U.S.) per kilogram for plastic. Scavengers told me they earn from 3000 to 5000 Riels a day (75 cents to $1.25 U.S.)
If somebody wants to fund it, I'll be happy to travel around the world visiting dumpsites and taking pictures for a coffee-table book on the subject (Hey, wouldn't you rather look at pictures of dumpsites instead of the same old boring waterfalls or sailboats?!?)
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