Saturday, May 2, 2009

Simple Things We All Can Do Together To Protect The Environment

Simple Things We All Can Do To Protect The Environment at the Pagodas and in front of the Royal Palace along the Bassac River

Simple Things We All Can Do To Protect The Environment

We all know illegal logging and environment devastation are big issues in Cambodia (please see The United Kingdom-based environment watchdog Global Witness’ reports on November, 2004, June, 2007, and February, 2009). Additionally, we can see that out of control littering becomes also a major problem in Cambodia. Garbage is everywhere: on the sidewalks, on the streets, on the road, in the river, in the national parks, in natural areas, in temples, in rice fields, in schools, in restaurants, in government buildings, even in pagodas. Public and free places (streets, river banks, etc…) become dumpsites, create awful odor, affect health, and spread disease.

Nearly everyone throw garbage, plastic bags and bottles, aluminum can, home rubbish, and other trash everywhere they go, everywhere they eat, and everywhere they visit. They form destructive habits to the environment and their own health. They forget that plastic materials, aluminum can and other non-biodegradable trash are not like banana leaves. If they throw them on the ground those non-ecological trash will be there tomorrow and for years to come. It is very crucial to put plastic and non-environmental friendly trash in its proper place, and especially to dispose batteries in a safe place. Those unmanageable and irresponsible behaviors have caused great damage to the natural world and created many public health hazards to all. If we don’t start doing something about this out of control littering, we develop more and more into a garbage country. People need to reform and change their destructive habits. Here is ‘Simple Things We All Can do to protect the Environment’.

To protect the Environment and to encourage other people not to litter, a group of students lead by Say Seyheang and Ngol Kean with the support of the teachers, parents, elders, young children and monks of the Buddhism Education for Peace Center organized a school team and a group of family and young friends for environmental activities for a clean up day. During Khmer New Year and Labor Day, the students wanted to make the “Pagoda a Better Place”, thus the “World a Better Place”. They decided to get together to pick up garbage, sweep, and clean Onalum Pagoda in the capital, Kampong Kor Pagoda in Kandal Province, Oudong Pagoda also in Kandal province, and in front of the Royal Palace along the Bassac river. They armed themselves with brooms and the motto ‘Clean Environment, Good Hygiene, Good Health, Long Life’. Through these hearty acts, it was their wish and most excellent start to keep Pagodas, the city, the country, thus Cambodia, clean for the benefits of all. Since Pagoda is a sacred and worship shrine, spotless pagoda creates a clean environment, generates wholesome heart and produces clear conscience. To honor our King and our public place, in front of the Royal Palace along the Bassac River must keep be free of trash.

Nothing like this LitterProject at Onalum Pagoda in the capital, Kampong Kor Pagoda in Kandal Province, Oudong Pagoda also in Kandal province, and in front of the Royal Palace along the Bassac River has ever happened before. It is the students’ hope and aspiration that the interest and volition generated by their wholesome actions will inspire many more people, students, young children, parents, monks, farmers, government officials, leaders, and tourists to also take part in this LitterProject. Once people experience there own daily ability to make an environmental difference they will keep it up on their own-and may be even do a project in their neck of their woods. They will reform and change their destructive habits once they know uncontrolled littering damage the environment and their health. The keys for this successful LitterProject included:

1. They had fun doing it. After all, the students and everyone else were actively making pagoda a better place. Making “Pagoda a Better Place” and "in front of the Royal Palace along the Bassac River a Trash Free Place", thus the “World a Better Place” was their main inspiration. They wanted also to inspire other people to joining them and keeping the pagoda and Cambodia free of litter.

2. They kept it simple. Cleaning up trash was easy. All they needed are brooms, garbage bags, masks, dustpan, place to dispose the trash, gloves and most importantly a good heart with a smile. They really enjoyed doing it.

3. They invited other people to join them and never coerce them. It was their act of good deeds to contribute to the cleanliness of the Pagodas and the environment.

4. They told lots of people, including the press, CTN’s TV, and Radio Free Asia. They told them when, where, and what they were doing. Even if they winded up doing alone, they would speak of their intrinsic interest, good wills and volition, and people may want to join them next time.

5. They reminded people what they were doing matters. Having a clean pagoda creates a clean environment, good hygiene, good health, long life-good for them, good for others, and good for all. Everyone has a personal responsibility to be good citizen and not litter.

As I joined them and witnessed their unselfish actions and simple things they can do to protect the environment through this LitterProject, I could not help to reflect on the importance of saving the environment for the future Cambodian generation as stated in one of the Indian Cree Prophecy:

“Only after the last tree has been cut own,
Only the last river has been poisoned,
Only the fish has been caught,
Only then will you find that money can not be eaten.”

Finally, as a volunteer teacher at Buddhism Education for Peace Center, I wholeheartedly support their LitterProject. I salute their initiative. To make Cambodia clean and people’s healthy, everybody needs to work together to not litter.

If you want help ‘Pick Up Garbage and Clean The Environment, TOGETHER’ you can contact Say Seyheang at and Ngol Kean at