Toul Chey, A Slum In Phnom Penh

Posted: February 22, 2008 in SVA
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There is stereotyped image that living in city is much better and more comfortable than in rural areas. But it is not the case for slum dwellers. In recent years, there are influxes of new comers flowing into Phnom Penh from every corner of the country seeking of better lives and jobs, but ending up collecting garbage or begging along the streets.

There are more than 700 slums in Phnom Penh and dwellers of about 30 of Phnom Penh population according to the estimation by Urban Poor Development Fund (UPDF). In Phnom Penh everything is money. Most children in slums have to working to support their families, giving up their dream of going to school. Toul Chey slum, one of those hundreds of slums, located near Stung Meanchey Dumping site, also called Smoky Mountain, about 15 minutes by car from Phnom Penh downtown.

Toul Chey slum came to existence in 1996 when villagers mostly from the provinces of Prey Veng and Svay Rieng started to live there and collect garbage from Steang Meanchey garbage dumping site, the biggest dumping site in Phnom Penh and Cambodia. Now about 250 families and 1500 dwellers, among which 489 are children, are living there, making their living by scavenging recycle items.

Everyday from dawn till dusk, all family members from small kids and old grandparents work on the unbearable smelly and dirty garbage mountain scavenging papers, plastics, empty bottles, cans, etcetera. In average they can make about R 5000 ($ 1.25) in one whole day. With this amount of incomes, they hardly make any saving after spending on their foods, house rental, water and other basic expenses.

There is no public electricity, and of course no running water there. They have to pay more than doubled price to get water and electricity from businesspeople. Everything is not always come cheap for the poor. Since they work in very unhygienic environment, they are prone to disease especially skin diseases. There is also one community school run by a French organization, Pour un Sourire d’Enfant nearby, but still the children cannot go to school though they want to. They have to work to fill their stomachs first.

To make thing worse, now they are facing relocation to others places far from their working place. They are living on leased private land and now the owners want to ask them out and sellout their lands that have skyrocketed in price in recent years. Most of them do not have any skill and they have never thought of changing their works so far. Now they are living nearby their working place, meaning they do not need to spend on transportation that will be a big problem if they are relocated to other places in the future. The future of Toul Chey slum is getting so dim now, but what they can do is to work earning enough money for their tomorrow meals.

Toul Chey slum is one the 20 slums in Phnom Penh where Shanti Volunteer Association (SVA) provides regular mobile library service since 2007.

Situation of Toul Chey Slum

Stung Meanchey Dumping Site, Also Called Smokey Mountain

Scavenged Recyclable Bottles and Cans

  1. Phossdey says:

    I feel ashame of my lack information within development area. I really thing some day I should pick up one book among those books that my aunt recommended. Now days, Cambodia’s society is at risk and also seen as a new day to start. All I wanna say here is that I see and feel toward slum area in PP, but I am sorry that I could not do anything right now. However, there is a hope that one day I could be one of contributor to resolve all this controversial and complicated society of Cambodia.

  2. Phal says:

    “Where there is a will, there is a way.” I hope that when you come back here you can make a difference to make Cambodia a better and more pleasure place for everyone to live. Hope that the gaps will be narrowed down in the future.

  3. Michelle says:

    Hello Phal,

    I was just wondering if you are with an organization here in Phnom Penh or if you are reporting on your own. Your blog was well written and had much useful information.
    Thank you,

  4. Phal says:

    Hi Michelle
    Yeah, I am still working at SVA based Phnom Penh. Thank for dropping by my blog and your compliment.

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