Chemicals play an essential role in our daily lives, yet they can also endanger health and the environment if not manufactured, used and managed properly. Increased knowledge is identified as the main factor leading to changes in pro-environment behavior. It is therefore the factor that makes people manufacture, use and manage chemical substances properly. In fact, environmental education’s goal has been defined as the “development of environmentally responsible and active citizens” and it is commonly used to attempt to influence pro-environment behavior change.
The component 4 –Education and Awareness Raising –of the project “Demonstration of BAT and BEP in open burning activities in response to the Stockholm Convention on POPs” is very responsive to the current situation where Cambodian people poorly understand the negative impacts of chemical substances on human health and environment. It’s been designed to raise awareness on risks and hazards associated with UPOs and other related contaminants released during uncontrolled combustion of wastes and agricultural residues. It also expects that people who are aware of and educated will change their attitudes and behaviors to manage and use all chemical substances properly.
There are different ways to educate and raise public awareness on a particular thing. From the viewpoint of Department of Environmental Education (DEE), the Ministry of Environment (MOE) in Cambodia, public awareness raising shall be made with young people and adults through various activities, including poster and photo contest, youth debate, poem contest and so on. These activities are just to make them aware and scared of negative impacts of chemical substances on their health and surrounding environment. From their understandings and being frightened, many innovations and initiatives will be created, so the negative impacts from chemical/hazardous substances will be gradually reduced.
Promoting awareness and concern alone is not enough. “Environmental Constraints” is another factor and could be the barrier to prevent people from changing their behaviors. In Cambodia, there are no laws providing clearly the punishments against those people who do littering somewhere public. Rubbish bins could be seen in some tourist places only in urban area and different type of wastes could be dropped in the bins, including the hazardous ones.
It’s also possible that people believe that advantages of performing a particular behavior outweigh the disadvantages. In other words, people have positive attitude toward performing the behavior. In this regard, participation of the Royal Government of Cambodia (RGC) through the development of motivating mechanisms is really important and necessary to incentivize public people, private companies, civil society and other stakeholders to work together more effectively and efficiently.