PHNOM PENH — Proper waste disposal is important to maintaining a clean appearance and making space for city development, and a crucial element to a healthy community.
The poor state of waste disposal in the developing world is spreading disease and polluting the air, land and water. Aside from the environmental and public health concerns introduced by improper waste disposal, these countries are missing out on valuable opportunities for economic growth. Cities with garbage and waste lining the streets tend to scare away good residents, investors and tourists, a potential detriment to a developing economy.
The city of Phnom Penh is a rapidly growing and developing city located in southern Cambodia. The recent influx of people from rural Cambodia resulted in an unprecedented amount of waste and pollution throughout the city. To make matters worse, the Phnom Penh Waste Management Authority (PPWMA) failed to come up with solutions to address the improper waste disposal.
According to a research institution in Cambodia, waste produced in Phnom Penh is around 906 tons per day, However, only around 64 percent of that waste is collected. Surface water and soil contamination plague the developing city, interrupting ecosystems and polluting drinking water. Further, improper waste disposal in the developing world can result in airborne pollution, which leads to respiratory problems and other adverse health effects as contaminants are absorbed into residents’ lungs.
In Patna, India, residents are suffering similar health hazards due to poor waste disposal in an overpopulated and constantly developing city. Experts believe that the garbage dumped all over the city creates a breeding ground for mosquitoes and flies which transmit deadly diseases.
Open sewage leaks into water sources, contaminating the water system and causing the spread of deadly diseases to the general public. These unhygienic conditions cause a number of waterborne diseases like viral hepatitis, diarrhea, cholera and typhoid, all of which can be fatal if not properly treated.
Indian prime minister Narendra Modi recently said of improper waste disposal, “Has it ever pained us that our mothers and sisters have to defecate in the open?… Can’t we make arrangements for toilets for the dignity of our mothers and sisters?”
Immediately following this statement, Modi developed the Clean India campaign which involved installing 75 million toilets throughout India and ensured that no harmful waste be dumped into the environment. In 2014, when Clean India began, just 42 percent of Indians had access to proper sanitation. Following its implementation, 63 percent are able to have the same access, a major feat in a country as densely populated as India.
Similar improvements are being made in Cambodia as awareness rises over health concerns regarding poor waste disposal in the developing world. The Cambodian central government identified the benefit of decentralizing disposal efforts and allocating funds to municipal agencies in order to create initiatives within their local communities.
Several initiatives help with environmental education including UNESCO. Cambodia’s anti-plastic bags campaign and a waste to energy initiative to emphasize the benefits of using natural resources for sustainable energy. In terms of foreign contribution, the Global Environment Fund put aside €7.5 million to contribute to waste disposal efforts in Cambodia and several other surrounding countries.
Despite the magnitude of this issue, these regions must remain optimistic and ambitious in finding solutions to waste disposal in the developing world. Further, it is vital that the developed world contributes to these environmental efforts in order to make programs both functional and sustainable in their respective countries.
– Sarah Coiro