Stung Meanchey is closed but not out of business

Written by on October 21, 2009 in Photo Posts, Photos and Stories in Progress with 0 Comments

Still Working at Stung Meanchey

Phnom Penh’s municipal dump at Stung Meanchey closed in July, and a new site opened further outside the city. Like sister dumps from Payatas in Manilla to La Chureca in Nicaragua, Stung Meanchey had almost legendary status as a place to find “the poorest of the poor.” In fact, although working a garbage dump is a terribly hard life, the people who lived and worked at Stung Meanchey earned enough to pay rent for a shanty house and eat, and when times were good their children attended school. Now most of the families have moved on. The new dump doesn’t allow scavenging, so they must have drifted in separate directions looking for new ways to make ends meet. They say a German company will come and set up an operation to convert the waste into methane gas.

We visited the site in September, because I hoped to drop by a clinic that is still working with locals. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get through. First, we were stopped by security guards who said we couldn’t enter — unless we paid one of them to escort us for our protection. When I said we were visiting an NGO, they eventually let us pass, but we were finally brought up short by water and mud.  It was the rainy season, and there are no real roads around the area. We walked down a muddy path, but the others with me balked when it came to wading.

We saw this crew at work next to the giant hill of trash. Although the dump is closed and most of the large recyclable trash has been taken, they had painstaking gathered scraps of plastic and dried them in the sun. As we watched, they rolled their work into bundles and loaded it all into a truck. They couldn’t have earned more than a few dollars total.

Working at Stung Meanchey

Working at Stung Meanchey

The mountain of trash

A boy from a nearby orphanage atop the mountain of trash at Stung Meanchey

About the Author

About the Author: Andy Gray is a writer and photographer living in Phnom Penh, Cambodia and working with Alongsiders International. You can find him puttering around the streets of Phnom Penh on his Suzuki Viva 125, running stoplights and driving on the wrong side of the road or on the sidewalks like a local. If you see him in a coffee shop, he'll be the one typing and deleting the same line over and over again. .

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