Snapshot: Rubbish River

It's funny how as you live in a place some things start to make more sense.  There are other things that, although they don't make sense exactly, somehow stop being as different.  But, there are other things that actually seem to become more difficult to understand.

For me, this is one of the things that I find harder and harder to understand the longer I'm here:

We refer to this as Rubbish River, I suspect the reason is evident.  Basically it's this, as far as you can see (in case you are wondering, it smells as bad as it looks).

When we first moved to Phnom Penh we lived in a small street in the "suburbs" (not sure that that's the right word for it but anyhoo).  When we asked our landlord where to put our rubbish he explained that we should take it and dump it at the side of the road behind the local pagoda as there was no rubbish collection in our street.  We were bemused, but it was clear that many of our neighbours were in the habit of doing just that.  I try very hard not to judge the ways of people in my adopted home, so, although not feeling particularly comfortable about it, we followed the practice of our new neighbours.  To be fair, there were many people using the same spot for their rubbish and the garbage truck would clear it all away every evening.

It was some months later that the local officials started cracking down on rubbish dumping all over Phnom Penh.  While I applauded the move, it did leave us in somewhat of a conundrum as there still was no rubbish collection in our street.  The rubbish truck did go down a nearby main road, but, understandably, our neighbours on that road didn't want us to leave our rubbish outside their house. The only solution was to "wait" for the garbage truck like our neighbours.  This solution works fine if there is someone at home at your house during the day, as the truck came on Tuesdays sometimes, other times on Mondays.  However, it proved quite challenging for us as we are generally out during the day.  I would quite often wait home a little longer and leave the door open in the hopes I would hear the garbage truck horn or the excited chatter as the whole street came out to dispose of their rubbish.  Sometimes I did, sometimes I didn't.  But most upsetting were the times I heard the truck, raced out and had started dragging my garbage down the street, only to see the truck take off down the road, and I would have to take my garbage back home.

Fortunately, we now live in an area where the truck comes every couple of days.  We can leave our rubbish out the front of our gates, confident that it will shortly disappear.  We happily contribute to this service via our electricity bill each month.  As do our neighbours, which is the part I don't understand.  Despite the fact that the garbage truck comes regularly, and that our neighbours, like us, are obligated to pay for this luxury, every day our neighbours hurl bags of rubbish into a pond behind their house, from which it will never be collected.  Another neighbour hurls their empty cans into the middle of the street each morning, even though if she just left it on the side of the road with the other rubbish it would be collected and taken away.  I think this is something that I won't ever really understand.

Update: I took these snapshots and started writing this post a couple of weeks ago, but took a while to get around to finishing it.  Then, on Tuesday, I saw the very same rubbish river on page 4 of the Phnom Penh post, it would seem I'm not the only one who is disturbed by it.

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1 comment:

  1. Jeez, what a mess! I bet it reeks going over that bridge! If it were up to me, and the people, I would assemble everyone from the town for a mass clean up. It would improve the quality of living a lot more.

    -Land Source Container Service, Inc.


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