Urban Governance: Waste Management in Phnom Penh

January, 29 2019

Since 2002, CINTRI has been solely in charge of collecting the city’s municipal waste. Since then, a battle of words between the local authorities and CINTRI officials has focused on who is to blame for waste issues in the capital.

STT’s latest research ‘Urban Governance: Waste Management’ (2019) focuses on the governance of waste management in Phnom Penh, observing the waste collection by CINTRI from resident’s households​.

Against the backdrop of the UN’s ‘good governance’ principles, the research looks at waste management from the perspective of the urban poor, with key interviews with other actors – such as CINTRI. Under this framework, the researchers found significant issues such as that 99 (35.7%) of the 277 urban poor communities in Phnom Penh still receive no waste management, despite often having their wealthier neighboring communities receiving doorstep pick-up. Some communities live on top off, or are directly affected by the trash in and around their communities, with fire and disease a daily risk to their lives.

“They [authorities] don’t care about us. They don’t care what happens to this community.” – Urban poor community member.

Poor access routes are commonly cited as a reason for communities not receiving waste management, and there is a strong link found in this study. However, trash carts should be able to navigate the small alleyways that trucks cannot enter in most communities, and the inequitable distribution of trash carts across the city may be the reason so many communities have no waste collection. Further, sangkat officials were often unaware of the lack of waste services in their constituencies, illuminating a gap between the public and officials on this issue. 8 communities had reported issues to local authorities about waste in the past, but had received no response.

Transparency is severely lacking in the process of waste management, with no contract provided and no competition allowed to compete against CINTRI for the contract to manage the city’s municipal waste.

“I worry about the traffic, but I don’t have a choice… We, who are CINTRI workers, are afraid to advocate” – CINTRI worker.

Finally, the tragic deaths of 14 CINTRI workers over the last four years while on the job is a huge black-spot on the company’s safety record, and the RGC’s ability to monitor employers and ensure a safe work environment as is required under the Cambodian Labor Law of 1997. With no protective clothing or safety measures provided to workers in the wake of these deaths, this report finds that CINTRI is failing its legal obligations to guarantee a safe work environment. CINTRI does not supply safety materials, such as protective work clothing to its employees, and ultimately fails to mitigate the risks of a dangerous workplace and the research calls for a further investigation into this issue.

As well as providing specific recommendations to the authorities, CINTRI and the urban poor communities, the report concludes that urban governance is inadequate with regards to waste management. A lack of transparency, equity, accountability, responsiveness, and the respect for the lives of CINTRI’s workers, leads to the ultimate conclusion that waste is poorly governed in Phnom Penh.

Sahmakum Teang Tnaut is a Phnom Penh based local NGO that provides pro-poor technical assistance for housing and infrastructure and informs dialogue through evidence-based research on urban poor issues.

You can download full report as PDF files here: Khmer | English

Contact for more information:
Mr. Soeung Saran, Executive Director of Sahmakum Teang Tnaut (STT)
Email: director@teangtnaut.org
Tel: 089 666 013
Mr. Isaac Daniels, Program Adviser of Sahmakum Teang Tnaut (STT)
E-mail: advisor@teangtnaut.org
Tel: 017 744 187