The Ministry of Public Works and Transport is about to begin final discussions on a sewerage bill, following its submission by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), which had provided expertise.
The bill handover ceremony on May 16 was presided over by State Secretary of the Ministry Pal Chandara and JICA High Representative Miyahara Ai.
Chandara praised JICA’s contributions to the draft law, saying they provided technical assistance for the review and made good recommendations. They also improved the first draft of the ministry’s project, aimed at building the capacity of the Phnom Penh municipal administration and the ministry to manage sewage and wastewater systems, he said.
During the ceremony, Mr. Chandara noted that rapid progress had been made in the development of public infrastructure and housing since comprehensive peace and political stability was achieved in the country in 1998.
He said that due to rapid development, sanitation, sewage and liquid waste management in cities and urban areas have become a “big problem” that needs to be addressed and managed “appropriately and urgently. “.
Chandara acknowledged that the government needs to find solutions and strategies to make wastewater management more efficient and environmentally friendly, adding that this could be best achieved through cooperation with public and private actors, as well as with development partners.
The Sewerage Systems Bill aims to address the problem of sewage disposal in urban centers, which has been criticized for being dangerous to public health. Chandara noted that the ministry is currently collecting input from stakeholders on the content of the law, especially from JICA, which he called industry experts.
“We received a sewage bill from JICA, which provided good input. Japan is a country that has experience in liquid waste and sewage management, and has done very well in this field at the national level,” he said.
“Now that we have more information, we will have another inter-ministerial meeting with all the ministries concerned before submitting [the draft law] to [Council of Ministers].”
Chandara also encouraged the intensification of discussions on the content of the bill by the ministry’s expert working group, the inter-ministerial committee and the Council of Jurists, to ensure that the details of the bill correspond to the real situation in Cambodia, and support the development of the country.
The law aims to strengthen wastewater management to ensure that it is disposed of in a safe, efficient and environmentally friendly manner, and that it meets the needs of Cambodians.
Environmental consultant Hem Odom hailed the drafting of the law, saying it “should have been established a long time ago”. He noted that the wastewater and sewage management systems currently in use in Cambodia are relics of the French colonial era and that improvements to these systems have been “minimal”.
Odom expressed concern about the current lack of a proper sewage disposal system, noting that it seriously affects not only the environment, but also public health, as unsanitary sewage often mixes and contaminate water intended for human use, he said, as observed in Phnom Penh during floods.