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Cambodia’s Government To Shut Down A Chinese-Owned Hotel, Suspect To Water Pollution

Overhead footage shot with a drone camera clearly shows a large stream of discolored water snaking through the beach behind the resort and spilling into the sea.

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A screen grab from a video shows an aerial view of what appears to be sewage streaming out of the Sunshine Bay Hotel and Casino on Koh Rong Samloem Island. RFA

An environmental watchdog on Thursday called on Cambodia’s government to shut down a Chinese-owned hotel and casino for pouring raw sewage into the sea off of the coast of the popular resort town of Sihanoukville, following the closure of another on the same island last month.

In a video posted to Facebook, Mother Nature activist Meng Heng said the Sunshine Bay Hotel and Casino is severely polluting the water off of the southern tip of Koh Rong Samloem Island’s Independence beach.

Overhead footage shot with a drone camera clearly shows a large stream of discolored water snaking through the beach behind the resort and spilling into the sea.

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“If we find out they are violating the laws [against polluting the environment], we will ask them to correct the situation,” Pixabay

He noted that the sea near the hotel and casino has “an unusual odor and color to it,” adding that as one approaches the perimeter of the property “we will be left in no doubt as to why this part of the beach receives no tourists.”

While Meng Heng acknowledged that it was impossible to tell whether all of the pollution comes solely from the hotel, it is clear that “large amounts of sewage are being dumped onto this part of the beach on a daily basis.”

In mid-March, officials ordered another Chinese-run facility of Koh Rong Samloem—the Jin Ding Hotel and Casino—to shut down, citing multiple violations by the casino of the law, the playing of loud music on the beach, and the promotion of illegal online betting games.

The closure followed accusations that the resort was ruining the beauty of a local beach by pouring raw sewage into the sea, prompting complaints by area residents and inspections by authorities.

At the time, Leang Sopheary—a youth volunteer who visited the island in February and posted photos of the polluted water on social media—called on authorities to examine larger areas of beachfront now also under threat.

Another environmental activist, Thorn Ratha, called for a “serious punishment” for the Jin Ding’s owner, as well as an investigation into any government official “who might have been involved” in turning a blind eye to the violations.

Call for closure

In Thursday’s video, Meng Heng noted that on March 26, Minister for Urban Planning Chea Sophara had said in a statement posted to his Facebook account that in the aftermath of the Jin Ding’s closure “Sihanoukville no longer has any dirty water entering its beaches and sea,” but the activist questioned whether the minister had actually sent anyone to inspect the area before making such claims.

He urged Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government to act against the ongoing problem of pollution in the area, starting with the Sunshine Bay Hotel and Casino.

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He said authorities are targeting serious polluters first, and that they will issue warnings to any buildings found in breach of the city’s regulations before punishing them for continued violations. Pixabay

“Will Hun Sen’s regime dare to also shut down another Chinese business, the massive Sunshine Bay Hotel and Casino, if it finds that it is also spewing raw sewage onto the sea, in much larger quantities than the one in Koh Rong Samloem,” he asked.

On Thursday, Sihanoukville provincial spokesman Or Saroeun acknowledged to RFA’s Khmer Service that “sewage is a problem,” but said Sihanoukville city officials are “working to resolve the issue.”

He said authorities are targeting serious polluters first, and that they will issue warnings to any buildings found in breach of the city’s regulations before punishing them for continued violations.

“If we find out they are violating the laws [against polluting the environment], we will ask them to correct the situation,” he said.

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“We want investors to bring development, but we don’t want them to harm the environment.”

Chinese investment has flowed into Sihanoukville in recent years, but Cambodians regularly chafe at what they say are unscrupulous business practices and unbecoming behavior by Chinese residents. (RFA)

Next Story

Water Pollution Threatens Nearly All Globally Agreed Development Goals

This study was a huge wake-up call to us about the quality of water worldwide

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Water Pollution, Globally, Development
FILE - A fisherman dangles his line to catch fish in polluted water off Beirut's seaside Corniche, Lebanon, June 23, 2019. VOA

Water pollution threatens nearly all the globally agreed development goals to end environmental destruction, poverty and suffering by 2030, economists warned in a report Tuesday, citing the largest-ever database on the world’s water quality.

The World Bank report warned of the ripple effects of water pollution on the health, economies, education and agriculture of rich and poor countries alike.

“This study was a huge wake-up call to us about the quality of water worldwide,” said Richard Damania, World Bank economist and one of the study’s authors.

“The world tends to focus on water quantity such as floods and droughts, but this report focuses on the more invisible threats — the effects of pollutants impacting global water quality,” Damania said.

Water Pollution, Globally, Development
Water pollution threatens nearly all the globally agreed development goals to end environmental destruction, poverty and suffering by 2030, economists warned. Pixabay

The 193 United Nations member states agreed on Sept. 25, 2015, to a lofty 15-year agenda of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with 169 targets aimed at helping everyone live healthier, more prosperous lives on a cleaner planet.

SDG 6 refers to clean water and sanitation for all, but the U.N. World Water Development Report found about three out of 10 people — 2.1 billion — did not have access to safely managed drinking water at home in 2015.

In sub-Saharan Africa, coverage was only 25 percent.

“Chemical contamination such as arsenic in Bangladesh, mercury in Maputo and fluoride in parts of Kenya are major concerns,” said Neil Jeffery, the CEO of water rights group Water Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP).

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“Clean water brings dignity. Entire communities are trapped in a vicious cycle of poverty, with a lack of basic water and sanitation impacting health, school attendance and livelihoods,” Jeffery told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Information key

The World Bank report used satellite data and artificial intelligence and machine learning to analyze nitrogen, salt and oxygen levels — water health markers — of water globally.

“Pollution affects countries both rich and poor. It is just the cocktails of chemicals that change,” Damania said. “Plastics and pharmaceutical contaminants are problems everywhere.”

Water Pollution, Globally, Development
The World Bank report warned of the ripple effects of water pollution on the health, economies, education and agriculture of rich and poor countries alike. Pixabay

Ripple effects of consuming pollutants include childhood stunting, infant mortality, lowered economic activity and food production.

“Information is the first step,” said Damania, in league with water rights groups.

By way of example, Jeffery cited that “informed consumers can make decisions to keep rubbish out of waterways.”

And they can pressure corporations and government “to take the challenge seriously,” said Javier Mateo-Sagasta, senior researcher at the Water Management Institute (WMI).

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The report said that the scale of the problem meant there is “no silver bullet,” but Damania remains optimistic that “social movements, political and corporate will and new technologies” could still save the threatened resource. (VOA)