Since Cambodia gained full peace in 1998, its economy has grown very quickly. This rapid development has had both good and bad impacts on people’s quality of life. A lot of housing projects and tall buildings are going up, and this has many people concerned about the guidelines for construction.
Architecture students are among the many young Cambodians who are concerned about the issue of urban planning and its effect on future development.
Catherine Sherwin, an urban planner with over 14 years in the industry who spoke at the Urban Planning in Phnom Penh event at Impact Hub last Thursday, divides urban planning into three categories: urban happiness; urban problems; and urban transformation/inspiration.
Right now, development is bringing both happiness and problems to Cambodia. It has vibrant neighborhoods, but at the same time, it also has to deal with a lot of problems such as congestion, flooding, pollution, a reduction in open space, walkability, and affordability.
Khim Sokleng, a student at Norton University, agreed with Ms. Sherwin about the problems she mentioned, but said some are not yet possible to solve in Cambodia. We need more time and resources, the student said.
Torng Sovannvitou, a fifth-year architecture student at Norton University, said that within 10 to 20 years, Cambodia’s image will be transformed. Tall buildings are being constructed, and the quality of life will improve too, the student said.
Ms. Sherwin said, “One of the problems I’m concerned about is that they build apartments too close to each other. The windows are right next to each other. There is not enough natural light, and the health of people living there could suffer.
“It’s probably at a point now where they really need to think about it because the development is so rapid. If they don’t do something now, then there is going to be a lot of bad development. If they follow a strategy or guidelines, it could be good in the future,” she continued.
Ms. Sherwin said that local people can make a change as a community, collaborating with government to implement the guidelines together.