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Dumpsite pollution and waste pickers struggle in Siem Reap, Cambodia

In proximity to the world-famous Angkor temples, waste from tourism and the entire Siem Reap province is thrown to the Anlong Pi dump without any control. While residents demand its closure, hundreds of waste pickers survive by collecting recyclables.


The dump of Anlong Pi is located in the commune of Trapaing Thom, about 30km from Cambodia’s main tourist town Siem Reap and its Ankor temples. It serves as the principle dumpsite for the Siem Reap province, receiving waste from households, businesses and tourism alike, but also hospital and other hazardous waste [1][2][3].

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Dumpsite pollution and waste pickers struggle in Siem Reap, Cambodia
State or province:Siem Reap
Location of conflict:Along Pi village, Trapaing Thom commune, Prasat Bakong district
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Waste Management
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Waste privatisation conflicts / waste-picker access to waste
Landfills, toxic waste treatment, uncontrolled dump sites
Specific commodities:Domestic municipal waste
Recycled Metals
Project Details and Actors
Project details

The village of Anlong Pi is located in the commune of Trapaing Thom, in the district of Prasat Bakong, about 30 kilometers from the city of Siem Reap and the Angkor temples. The dumpsite was opened in 2008 and covers an area of 8 hectares, although currently only 3 hectares are in use. The land has been bought from farmers and borders the village of Anlong Pi and paddy fields. [2][4][12] Anlong Pi dump is managed by the company Global Action for Environmental Awareness (GAEA), which is in charge of waste collection in the province of Siem Reap. It currently collects about 280 tons of waste per day, although about 400 tons are generated daily in the province. [2]

Project area:8
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:several thousand
Start of the conflict:2008
Company names or state enterprises: Global Action for Environmental Awareness (GAEA) from Cambodia
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Plastic Free Cambodia
NGO Kumae
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Local ejos
Wastepickers, recyclers
Forms of mobilization:Blockades
Development of a network/collective action
Official complaint letters and petitions
Street protest/marches
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Fires, Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil contamination, Waste overflow, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Potential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Soil erosion
Health ImpactsVisible: Occupational disease and accidents, Infectious diseases
Potential: Accidents, Malnutrition, Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Violence related health impacts (homicides, rape, etc..), Health problems related to alcoholism, prostitution, Deaths
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Loss of livelihood, Violations of human rights, Loss of landscape/sense of place, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment
Potential: Displacement, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..), Specific impacts on women, Land dispossession
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Migration/displacement
Technical solutions to improve resource supply/quality/distribution
Under negotiation
Application of existing regulations
Proposal and development of alternatives:Alternatives need to improve both waste management and environmental protection as well as the livelihoods and life opportunities of disadvantaged people – in this case, the waste picker and rural community of Anlong Pi. While on the one hand, the role of "edjai" in recycling should be socially recognized and institutionally strengthened, this should not come at the cost of incorporating only a part of them into existing, often profit-driven schemes, while excluding the rest from accessing their only source of livelihood. Hence, the necessary efforts to improve waste management and recycling need a careful approach when it comes to the formalization of informal waste pickers’ work, accounting for people’s social realities and possible side effects in this process. This suggests a socially inclusive and cooperative-based model of recycling, as for example proposed by the Global Alliance of Waste Pickers (Globalrec) and the organization WIEGO (Women in Informal Employment – Globalizing and Organizing), and already practiced in numerous cities around the globe – from Pune in India to Belo Horizonte in Brazil.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:As this case shows, problems in waste collection, separation and disposal in Cambodia closely intersect with poverty and human rights. While the strong tourism sector has an interest in keeping city centers and popular landmarks tidy, there is no systematic solution to improve recycling and deal with the increasing waste volumes. Instead, as the case of Anlong Pi shows, issues of environmental contamination remain unaddressed and controversial trends such as “poorism” have evolved, exposing communities who survive from waste co-created by tourism. Waste pickers in Cambodia are still socially marginalized and unacknowledged for their role in recycling and in the case of Anlong Pi have not been offered sufficient measures to improve conditions for the entire community.
Sources & Materials
Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

United Nations Declaration of the Rights of the Child (1959)
[click to view]

[1] Koemsoeun, S. (2019): Families living near Siem Reap dump demand site moved. The Phnom Penh Post, 20.02.2019. [Online, last accessed: 15.03.2020]
[click to view]

[2] Board, J. (2018): With Cambodia ‘drowning in a wave’ of waste, plastic could be banned at Angkor Wat. Channel News Asia, 30.06.2018. [Online, last accessed: 15.03.2020]
[click to view]

[3] Jeronimo, M. (2020): Edjai – Street Waste-Pickers and the Cambodian Recycling Trail. Miguel Jeronimo Photography Blog, 14.01.2020. [Online, last accessed: 15.03.2020]
[click to view]

[4] Sartori, S. (2016): Tourism and waste management: the sustainability challenge. SWITCH-Asia Network Facility. [Online, last accessed: 15.03.2020]
[click to view]

[5] Havana, O. (2013): Life in a Cambodian rubbish dump. Al, 23.10.2013.
[click to view]

[6] Kimmarita, L. (2019): Angkor cleaners return to work after company okays demands. The Phnom Penh Post, 07.01.2019. [Online, last accessed: 15.03.2020]
[click to view]

[7] Crowder, N. (2015): Tourists or voyeurs? Outsiders gaze at child labor in Cambodia’s largest landfill. The Washington Post, 26.02.2015. [Online, last accessed: 15.03.2020]
[click to view]

[8] Simmons, A. (2011): Life in a Cambodian rubbish dump. ABC News Australia Online,11.11.2011. [Online, last accessed: 15.03.2020]
[click to view]

[9] Caruana, B. (2015): Banana Paper Production Provides Opportunities for Women in Cambodia. The Altruistic Traveller, 29.01.2019. [Online, last accessed: 15.03.2020]
[click to view]

[10] David, S. (2017): Siem Reap waste piles up in dump dispute. Khmer Times, 05.09.2017.
[click to view]

[11] ហង្ស សាវយុត (2015): ពលរដ្ឋ នៅ សៀមរាប ផ្ដិត មេដៃ ប្ដឹង ឲ្យ អាជ្ញាធរ ដោះស្រាយ បញ្ហា ក្លិន ស្អុយ ចេញ ពី គំនរ សំរាម. RFA, 01.02.2015. [Online, last accessed: 15.03.2020]
[click to view]

[11] ហង្ស សាវយុត (2015): ពលរដ្ឋ នៅ សៀមរាប ផ្ដិត មេដៃ ប្ដឹង ឲ្យ អាជ្ញាធរ ដោះស្រាយ បញ្ហា ក្លិន ស្អុយ ចេញ ពី គំនរ សំរាម. RFA, 01.02.2015. [Online, last accessed: 15.03.2020]
[click to view]

[13] Breese, E., Rachna, T. (2019): The Waste Land. Pollution. Southeast Asia Globe, 28.06.2019. [Online, last accessed: 15.03.2020]
[click to view]

[14] David, S. (2018): Villagers upset over stinky garbage. Khmer Times, 05.03.2018. [Online, last accessed: 15.03.2020]
[click to view]

[15] WIEGO (2009): Law Report: Cambodia.
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Video: "Rubbish Dump - Cambodia Media Lab" (Youtube, 16.09.2014)
[click to view]

Other documents

Materials recycled by waste pickers ultimately end up in larger collection centers that export to factories abroad (Photo credit: Miguel Jeronimo)
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:EnvJustice Project (MS)
Last update14/04/2020
Conflict ID:5005
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