Menu
Account

Cambodia: Life in Hell

 
 

The Temple of Angkor Wat, in Cambodia’s northern province of Siem Reap, is the country’s most renowned attraction, drawing hundreds of thousands of foreign visitors annually. Few of these well-heeled tourists would realize that just a short drive away, some 300 people – many of them children – exist in the direst conditions imaginable, literally living in the garbage dump of Anlong Pi.

Life here is perfumed with the scent of the toxic smoke produced by the harmful chemical and biological reactions between organic and inorganic compounds. The residents spend more than ten hours each day digging through the tons of waste, searching for recyclable materials: plastic, glass, paper and – most valuable – copper. They are among the third of all Cambodians who still survive on less than a dollar a day.

Cambodia: Life in Hell
One of the youngest inhabitants of the Anlong Pi dump searches for recyclable material in the middle of tons of waste. Of the 300 people working in the Anlong Pi dump, more than 100 are children. With the accumulation of rubbish over the last three years, their low weight enables them to search in the middle of the landfill, where tons of waste is piled over water.
Cambodia: Life in Hell
Leftovers are clumped together to be used as food for animals. When they are particularly impoverished, inhabitants of the landfill will sometimes boil the leftovers and use them for their own meals. Fruit that can be peeled – such as bananas – is preferred because it is safer to eat.
Cambodia: Life in Hell
One of the men who work in the dump takes a nap during the hottest hours of the day at his home in the landfill. Many of the landfill’s residents live under improvised plastic shelters using hammocks as beds, where they rest before continuing their ceaseless search for plastic, metal and copper.
Cambodia: Life in Hell
A woman carries a bag full of leftovers that she found while searching for recyclable material in the landfill.
Cambodia: Life in Hell
A young worker digs through a pile of material searching for recyclable material. During their search they form circles and use pickaxes to dig through the piles of waste left moments before by the local trash collection company. The most valuable items are collected in the first few minutes. The use of pickaxes in close proximity makes the work a dangerous undertaking.
Cambodia: Life in Hell
A group of women take a break during the long working day collecting rubbish. Pauses and breaks are rare, as the amount of rubbish (about four kilograms) the workers have to collect to make one dollar leaves almost no time to rest.
Cambodia: Life in Hell
A group of young scavengers search for recyclable material in the middle of a mountain of garbage. Tons of waste arrives every day in Anlong Pi from Siem Riap tourist destinations.
Cambodia: Life in Hell
A young resident of the Anlong Pi rubbish dump walks in the middle of tons of waste holding her only toy, a teddy bear that she retrieved from the rubbish. More than 100 children work every day in the dump, and for most toys are an expensive luxury they cannot afford.
Newsletter
Sign up for our weekly newsletter
The Diplomat Brief