Pursat introduces solar to its first Model School

Cambodia
November 20, 2017

Pursat City, selected as one of Cambodia’s Model Cities in Year 3, is pushing forward with progress from its achievements since its participation in Year 2.

Youths are now empowered to take the lead, in addition the elderly women in the commune in Year 2. Apparently, the city’s younger staff members are taking a lead as it is easier for them to absorb and practice new values and ideas. Parts of the river have been upgraded and the number of trees/plants has increased. The park and riverside promenade space looks cleaner and greener. This trend is very similar to other ASEAN Model Cities.

The City Government is taking the issue of water management seriously. With technical assistance from Mongolia, the city is extracting chlorine (used in the treatment of tap water) from salt produced in Kampot (Cambodia’s main producer of salt) to substitute the synthetic chlorine used in the water supply treatment process. The continuing anti-litter campaign is reportedly reducing the number of trash ending up in the Pursat River, which supplies to 80% of the city.

Recognising the initiative of Pursat City, the Ministry of Environment nominated Pursat City to be the Cambodia’s candidate for the upcoming ASEAN ESC Awards (Certificate of Recognition for Clean Water Award – Small City Category). The award was bestowed to the Pursat at  the last ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on the Environment in Sep 2017, Brunei Darussalam.

The city also hopes to advance from basic source separation and tree planting to composting and urban gardens. It plansto scale up its anti-littering campaign to target single-use plastic bags and more organised forms of managing recyclables (currently only being done haphazardly by scavengers at the open dump ‘landfill’). This is expected to be a very gradual process, since Cambodia’s development priorities is still about expanding infrastructure, improving access to urban services and poverty alleviation.

With the support of ASEAN ESC Model Cities Year 3, Pursat City decided to expand its efforts to reach more stakeholders and the next generation. To start, it selected Krung Tasen Primary School as the city’s first pilot ‘Model Green School’.

Krung Tasen primary school has 478 students and 18 teachers. It was selected as the first Model School in Pursat City to pilot green education among the younger generation. Pursat city has a total of 36 primary schools and only 2 high schools (this is an indicator of the high poverty rate, since advancement from primary to secondary schooling is so limited).

To the eyes of a person from a developed country, the school looks extremely impoverished. But it is among the best public schools in the city. There are only blocks of buildings and patches of grass without any facilities. Although the city reportedly has 100% access to grid electricity (albeit unstable during dry seasons), this school has no ‘legal access’ to electricity and it has to ‘borrow’ electricity from the neighbouring building (a training college for teachers.) Affordability is also a constraint for many underfunded schools – people may have access but may not afford the electricity appliances and the tariff which is among the highest in ASEAN. Cambodia is almost entirely reliant on foreign sources of electricity – it mainly imports from Vietnam, Thailand and Lao PDR.

The seed funds from Model Cities were utilised for the following:

  • Installed four photovoltaic (solar) panels on one block of building. The system has a maximum generative capacity of 800W (unverified) and is enough to power 6 classrooms (1 light bulb each classroom) and 1 light bulb plus 1 ceiling fan in the principal’s office. In addition, a total of 12 light bulbs were installed outside classrooms in the corridors for security reasons (deter thefts) and to maximise usage so that not only school’s students but other kids can benefit from the light outside school hours for extracurricular activities in the early morning or evening when it is dark.
  • Expanded the citywide public awareness anti-littering and 3R’s campaign, continuing the activities from Year 2. The campaign included training of Environmental Department staff and commune leaders, weekly public clean-up activities, introducing fines for littering (USD5 – USD100; fines can be doubled with each repeated offence), erecting signboards and banners

Students pointing to the solar-powered light bulb. If you paid attention you will notice that the school ‘uniform’ worn by the kids are not really uniform in design, as this expense is probably unaffordable for many households.

 

Teachers and students have begun separating waste at source at a small scale with colour-coded bins and established small gardens in the block installed with solar energy. It is still very rudimentary compared with Model Schools in other ASEAN countries, but it is an encouraging start. It is also outstanding because as a public school, it is significantly under-resourced.

 

The pilot ‘green’ block of the school with 1 principal’s office and 6 classrooms.

 


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