Waste on Water has its beginnings in 2016 during our initial trip to Chhnok Tru, one of the thousand floating communities that reside along Tonle Sap. We noticed a worrying issue in the way waste was being managed and perceived in the village. This led to a preliminary investigation of the “waste on water” as part of a field investigation module offered in National University of Singapore (NUS).
In 2017, the project inception was spearheaded by various like-minded youths from Cambodia and Singapore. We hope to bridge the gap between academic research and socio- environmental cause by providing practical solutions to the local community. Together with Cambodian youths in the 2 trips earlier this year (February and June), we conducted various clean- up and educational campaigns in the local community and schools to raise awareness. The local community joined us as Samram (Waste) warriors and we hope to continue supporting the locals in fighting “waste on water”! This is essential for the future of Tonle Sap, the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia and the communities it supports.
Our mission is to ‘create a waste-free environment and habit amongst floating communities’. We recognise that tackling the issue of waste requires a multi-pronged approach that deals with both the root causes and the effect of having massive amounts of waste in the water. For this project, we have three key thrusts we wish to tackle.
On one of our trips, we picked up an approximate of 100kg of waste within a 10m x 10m area along the shore during the dry season. This amount of waste collected signals an urgent need for better management of waste for such communities. These waste are accumulated and buried as water level rise and fall due to the the flood pulse of the Tonle Sap. While the local communities do not perceive waste as problem because it is buried in the soil layer, the ecosystem is threatened due to pollution. Our team conducted educational campaigns at the three schools in Chnnok Tru to create awareness and inspire change in the next generation. Looking ahead, we hope to provide more holistic solutions like long term educational materials and floating waste barges by working with Livenlearn Cambodia whom have a wealth of experiences in waste management with floating communities.
Sanitation involves both water and waste. In Chnnok Tru, there is an absence of proper sanitation facilities and human waste goes directly into the water homes are floated on. The same water is used for drinking, washing and cooking. In line with the Cambodian’s government target to meet universal access to sanitation by 2025, our team hope to play a part in introducing Wetlands works!’s HandyPod to Chnnok Tru! The HandyPod is a floating toilet where anaerobic (oxygen-less) processes take place initially in the drum to break down human waste and later passess through water hyacinths which further break down the waste.
Waste has a close relationship with Water, especially in floating communities where water is used in almost all parts of their lives. From drinking of the river water, washing of laundry and dishes, bathing, to cooking, the water that flows in Tonle Sap plays an integral role in sustaining life on water. The water on Tonle Sap is facing immense threat due to the presence of huge volumes of wastes, which poses direct health and economic risks to floating communities and the surrounding biodiversity.
We are focusing on encouraging floating communities not to consume unfiltered river water either directly or boiled. Research has shown that boiled water from Tonle Sap river is still highly contaminated, yet many families continue with this practice due to convenience and the inability to purchase filtered water. Many families are found to drink directly from the river during wet-season when the water appears clean.
We believe that the high numbers of people in Chnnok Tru who suffer from waterborne diseases can be reduced drastically if the knowledge gaps in understanding the effects of drinking contaminated water are filled, and more families are able to pay for clean drinking water. We will partner with WateRoam to raise awareness and provide access to cheaper sources of clean water by introducing the filters in key access nodes in the floating community - public hospital, 3 public schools, and the Khmer commune chief’s office. Demonstrations, education workshops, maintenance trainings will be carried out with the local community to ensure the long term sustainability of the project. This pilot project will span over three months and key local water ambassadors will collect data and decide on the feasibility of WateRoam filter on the Tonle Sap! Support us in providing access to clean water, a basic human need that no one should be denied of!
Our team would be returning to Chhnok Tru from the 19th to 21st November 2017. This time, we have established connections with three different organisations, each to assist us in tackling one of the three thrusts. They are, Live N Learn Cambodia (Waste - http://www.livelearn.org/), Wetlands Work! (Sanitation - https://wetlandswork.com/) and WateRoam (Water - http://www.wateroam.com/).
We hope to be able to raise $5,000. This $5,000 would go into the purchase of products from both WateRoam and Wetland Works, to be brought into the community during this trip and in the future as solutions are available yet inaccessible to many of the floating communities living in the challenging environment.
To find out more, you may visit this youtube channel to watch some of the sights we have observed during our trips and research (http://bit.ly/wowcampaign)