Credit by Tonle Sap is home to about 100,000 people living in floating villages © Pichayada Promchertchoo
Bacteria to Improve Sanitation on Southeast Asia's Largest Lake
URBAN LIFE Cambodia

Bacteria to Improve Sanitation on Southeast Asia's Largest Lake

Piles of rotten garbage and a choking odour engulfed the bank of Tonle Sap near a small harbour in Chhnok Tru, Kampong Chhnang. Most of the rubbish, from plastic bags to human waste and animal carcasses, came from a fresh market a few steps away.

For visitors, the experience may be shocking. But for the inhabitants of Tonle Sap - Southeast Asia's largest freshwater lake stretching 13,000 sqkm across five Cambodian provinces - that is the only environment they know, and it is getting worse.

Tonle Sap, or the Great Lake, is becoming increasingly polluted. Chemicals from agriculture and various types of waste are being dumped into its water, which people use for drinking, cooking and washing.

Many residents on Tonle Sap use its water for cooking, washing and drinking. Image: Pichayada Promchertchoo
Many residents on Tonle Sap use its water for cooking, washing and drinking. Image: Pichayada Promchertchoo

“People defecate directly into the water,” said Hakley Ke from Wetlands Work, a Phnom Penh-based social enterprise. His organisation works to preserve the lake and improve the lives of about 100,000 residents in floating villages through innovative technologies.

One of them is HandyPod, a water treatment system that turns raw sewage into grey water of a high standard, using bacteria.

A HandyPod is attached to a latrine and comprises two containers filled with microbes, including bacterial cells. When raw sewage flows into the drums, it triggers microbial activity, where a broad diversity of microbes that grow within the containers eat the pathogens and organics, purifying the wastewater.

By the time the water is released into the lake, bacteria such as E.coli – the cause of diarrheal illness – will mostly be destroyed.

“The end result is much less pathogen concentration entering into the ambient water,” Wetlands Work’s director and founder Taber Hand explained. “About 1 metre from the discharge point, the water may be considered recreationally safe.”

HandyPod is a water treatment system designed by Wetlands Work. Image: Pichayada Promchertchoo
HandyPod is a water treatment system designed by Wetlands Work. Image: Pichayada Promchertchoo

The HandyPod project has been tested with selected households in 10 villages on Tonle Sap and the results are positive. However, Hand said Wetlands Work is still preparing grants for a full scale-up around the lake and improvements in water quality will not be noticeable without large-scale adoption.


Source : Channel News Asia

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