Kingdom presses for rivers cleanup, transforming waste into energy

Kingdom presses for rivers cleanup, transforming waste into energy

The Ministry of Environment (MoE) in collaboration with Leader Energy Holding Berhad known as ‘Leader Energy’ and River Ocean Cleanup (ROC) on Wednesday officially kicked off a five-year transformative project aimed at river cleanup operations along the Mekong, Tonlé Sap and Bassac rivers to produce renewable energy.

The ‘Five-Year Cambodia Rivers Cleanup Mission’ was presided over by Eang Sophalleth, Minister of Environment along with Khoung Sreng, Governor of Phnom Penh, Sean H’ng Chun Hsiang, Executive Deputy Chairman of Leader Energy and Nou Sovann, Executive Director of ROC at Decho Meas Decho Yat Park.

Sophalleth said, “This mission is in line with the Pentagonal Strategy to build and strengthen the foundations to accelerate national development while supporting MoE’s circular strategies, clean, green and sustainable contributing to clean water, plastic reduction campaigns and sustainable development goals.”

Sreang emphasised that the environment is easier to maintain than restore hence if the damage reaches the point where we no longer can maintain its cleanliness then we will need about 20 years to restore it.

Among all the cities and provinces in the country, Phnom Penh has the most waste production and it is not the responsibility of the Phnom Penh Capital Hall alone, but a contribution from everyone as a whole, he added.

Hsiang said that our partnership with ROC reflects our steadfast commitment to promoting a circular economy and care for communities. “Through this mission, we aim to not only mitigate the detrimental impacts of pollution on Cambodia’s waterways but also empower local communities to become stewards of their natural environment,” he added.

Sovann said, “We can clean all legacy wastes from the rivers and riverbank within five to six years and to keep rivers clean, waste management infrastructure, education and law reinforcement are the key.”

Responding to a specific query by Khmer Times about the investment budget to operate the mission and the capacity of renewable energy that could be produced from the collected waste, Sovann said, “Leader Energy has sponsored a total budget of $466,000 and dedicated its commitment to environmental stewardship, especially in Phnom Penh city, Kandal, Kampong Cham and Kratie provinces.

The ROC Executive Director explained, “We expect to collect about 500-600 tonnes of waste from rivers, but we have not calculated the exact capacity of renewable energy that could produced from the project yet. For now, we have successfully converted energy for a cement plant in Kampot province.”

Besides, this financial support will enable the implementation of various initiatives, such as job creation for the local community, active collaboration with community stakeholders for awareness activities and research efforts to enhance waste management, he added.

The collaborative endeavour between Leader Energy and ROC – commenced in late 2023 – represents a crucial step towards safeguarding the ecological integrity of the Kingdom’s vital water bodies. This concerted initiative is slated to run until 2028 and encompasses the comprehensive plan comprising river cleanup operations along the Mekong, Tonlé Sap and Bassac Rivers, as well as educational programs targeting local communities.

Within a very short period, from October 2023 to March 2024, 80 tonnes of waste have been removed from the rivers in Phnom Penh through the sponsorship of specialised debris buster boats and engagement with local affected communities along the rivers as ‘Clean Agents’. This figure significantly adds to the 1,693.09 tons of waste that ROC has collected over the past years.

Key components of the sponsorship include the provision of workboats and mini trucks to support river cleanup efforts, the employment of local communities as cleaning agents for riverbank restoration and the delivery of comprehensive waste management awareness programmes to schools and communities situated along the rivers and nearby Leader Energy operational areas.

Leader Energy is functioning as an independent power producer (IPP), adhering to the environmental, social and governance (ESG) principles in its business hence this commitment lays the foundation for a partnership with ROC, a non-profit organisation to initiate this mission in Phnom Penh, Kandal, Kampong Cham, and Kratie provinces, which began in October 2023. khmertiemskh

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