Cambodian RubbishDecember 18, 2006
The other morning I awoke somewhat earlier than usual; a full hour before I normally leave the house I was riding the streets of Phnom Penh trying to find a restaurant that was open, as a result I ended up further North than normal along the riverfront, at a tin-table-plastic-chair type place.
As I was sitting in this small Khmer pavement cafe, enjoying my early morning caffeine fix, having already read the solitary article of interest in the Cambodia (rarely) Daily (almost) my eyes roamed across the street, where I noticed a small, four or five year old, girl sifting through the rubbish pile of last night’s revelry. After a couple of minutes, finding no hidden treasures, she wanders towards the embankment by the Tonle Sap, where she squats down and with the nonchalance of a new born proceeds to take a hearty poo on the pavement.
All in all, quite a unhygienic life for the thousands of children across the Country that that little girl represents and that is before we consider the wider public health implications of piles of human shit on the streets (not to mention the thousands of gallons of urine that are leaked onto the streets every year).
Considering the millions and millions of dollars being pumped into Health (not to mention Infrastructure) why can we not have, for example, a couple of thousand fitted rubbish bins and a couple of hundred new public toilets?
Now I reckon that I could get Johnny Khmer at my local metal fabrication workshop (*1) to knock me up a two part rubbish bin (fixed outer, with a removable wire inner) for around $40 or $45, so 2,000 units would be $80,000, or much less with economies of scale on a larger order.
Now the toilets would be more expensive, I mean, let us do this properly with plumbing, running water and everything. I doubt that we would get much change out of $1,500 for one. So this little Public Health improvement (and city beautification) project would be setting us back about $380,000 so far, even before we get to the $1 a day labourers the dig a hole and cement the things in place.
I wonder how much less than 1% of the Aid money per year that figure represents?
But wait, hang on a minute, the City could actually recoup a lot of these expenses through advertising and sponsorship. The side of each rubbish bin could be advertising space, as could the toilets. Both NGOs and the Private Sector could access this advertising. Restaurants and bars could advertise on the bins nearest to their establishment, with an arrow pointing the way to their front door. NGOs and donors could have proud plaques on the bathroom doors ?This toilet was a gift from the people of ADBLand? or whatever?
This revenue stream could more than cover the expense of maintaining the facilities, as well as being quite sustainable.
In fact, you could continue the adverting on through to the inside of the toilet; your potential audience does not get much more captive than when sat on the throne. Again, bars, restaurants, banks, ISPs, special events, et cetera could be posted inside.
So I ask the question, are there any NGOs or Donors out there that are interested in preventing four year old girls sifting trough shit and rubbish every morning of their lives?
Tell you what, I will even Project Manage the thing for free.
Just Email me here at Khmer440 for more information.
(*1) NGO staff, please note the correct use of the word ‘workshop.’
The views in this column are entirely those of Lord Playboy (of Phnom Penh, Sonteipheap and that muddy patch of ground next to the school;) they are in no way representative of Khmer440, its editors, staff or that corn-fed gimp in the cellar ,of any Ministry of the Royal Government of Cambodia that employs Lord Playboy, of westerners who are scared to eat Khmer food, of people who use wing mirrors to squeeze spots, spineless cartoonist keyboard warriors, or forty year old corrupt Khmer cops who still can not grow a proper moustache . Damn, things will be different when I am running the Country.