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State of Waste Management in South East Asia


B. Institutional Arrangements

In the ASEAN countries different aspects of waste are managed by different agencies, as illustrated in the following table. The local governments are also expected to manage waste, especially municipal solid waste and some special waste, such as, waste from slaughterhouses.

In some countries, the institutional framework for waste management is complex and without a clear definition of roles and responsibilities. There is overlapping or duplication of activities in some areas, but there are also grey areas or concerns where no activities take place because there is no particular agency identified as responsible.

Table 8: Summary of Main Agencies Responsible for Waste Management in the ASEAN Countries

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In Thailand, for example, the institutional framework for water pollution control was a complicated one, as illustrated in Figure 4, before the current restructuring exercise.


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Integrated solid waste management is practised to some extent in some of the ASEAN member countries although IWM is more sectoral than comprehensive. For instance, Singapore uses the IWM approach in managing municipal and industrial solid waste as well as for managing municipal wastewater and storm water. Malaysia uses the IWM approach in managing its industrial wastewater and hazardous waste. The Philippines uses the IWM approach in its national solid waste management program.

Some of the tools the ASEAN countries use to implement IWM include:

  • Research and database development
  • Planning and management
  • Regulatory and enforcement
  • Awareness and education
  • Technical assistance, capacity building and information exchange

In most ASEAN countries, it is the national or federal authorities that establish the policy for waste management as well as develop the appropriate legislation and standards for policy implementation at local government level. The provincial and state governments implement environmental management programs, including waste management, by applying considerable investment in planning, staff training, purchasing equipment and providing support. However, since most local authorities have inadequate financial resources and central governments often do not have sufficient revenue raising powers, conflicts of interest arise within and between local authorities over the benefits of economic development versus environmental protection.

Governments are also trying to mobilize community-based organizations (CBOs) and non-government organizations (NGOs) to strengthen environmental management at the local level especially in the areas of public awareness and education. NGOs are growing in number and they have professionals who can provide technical advice and help in coordinating small-scale environmental projects in low-income countries. But in most countries, community mobilization is still largely on an informal basis, except in the Philippines, which has a legislation that requires involvement of NGOs and the private sector in committees for local capital budgets. In Malaysia, a pilot project in Local Agenda 21 has resulted in the involvement of CBOs and NGOs in municipal council meetings at four municipalities in the country, where one of the main issues addressed was solid waste management.

Training programs on waste, wastewater, and various aspects of environmental management are available in ASEAN countries. However, implementation of activities related to waste and environmental management are limited due to the lack of resources. The main constraint is inadequacy of funds by government and NGOs for promotional campaigns and training. To enable the countries to raise the level of waste management as a priority, technical and funding assistance from funding agencies, e.g., Asian Development Bank and bilateral co-operation agencies would be needed.

Financing is a very important issue in waste management. It is apparent that countries requiring the most funds for environmental management are the least able to raise them. However, all countries concerned have increased their efforts to devise mechanisms to become more financially self-sustaining, especially at the city level. They have started to involve the private sector in public utility management, which is proving to be effective in recovering capital costs and raising funds for required infrastructure investment.

An approach that countries have commonly adopted in resource raising is taxation, for example, from sales and property ownership. The conventional sources of funds are:

  • Internal revenue allotment
  • Special levies
  • Development fees
    • permit fees
    • development impact fees
    • groundwater protection fees
  • Surplus funds
  • Sewerage charges
  • Property taxes
  • Build-operate-transfer/privatization\
  • Credit
  • Other private sector finance
    • beneficiary cash contributions
    • contributions in kind
    • user fees

Most of the ASEAN countries lack revenues to support waste management. Their fiscal and financing policies are weak as well. While the 'polluter pays' policy has been generally accepted by ASEAN countries, however, the implementation of the policy has not taken place. The public, including most waste generators, expect the bulk of capital, operating and maintenance expenditures for waste management to be borne by the government since current tariffs are low, budget support for waste management is disproportionately low compared to the cost of services. Clear policies and objectives with supporting financial mechanisms and strategies to establish a sustainable base for waste management are most needed in all the countries.

It is recognized in most ASEAN countries that IWM is an important tool. Some agencies, e.g. DEPC of Cambodia and DOE of Malaysia are currently engaged in defining responsibilities, strengthening capacity and improving the utilization of existing and future resources for waste management. However, in all the ASEAN countries, the need for human financial and technical resources for waste management is common. Specifically, their needs are in the following areas:

  1. expertise in planning and management
  2. analytical equipment
  3. supporting budget
  4. technologies for waste management
  5. establishment and maintenance of waste sector databases
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