Cambodia should prioritise managed urban development to maximise economic growth and cope with the increase in population, industry insiders said yesterday.
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Local and foreign experts and government officials gathered yesterday at Sofitel Phnom Penh Phokeethra to discuss urban development in the Kingdom in a forum that sought to find solutions to the challenges that come with the country’s rapid population increase.
Pauline Tamesis, United Nations resident coordinator, said that managed urbanisation can accelerate Cambodia’s transformation into a high-income country by 2050.
“We gather here together today because we share a common aspiration – to help identify key urban priorities towards a Cambodian vision of smart, sustainable and inclusive urban development,” she said.
Ms Tamesis pointed out that Cambodia has one of the fastest rates of urbanisation in Southeast Asia.
By 2030, it is estimated that one in three people in Cambodia will live in cities. By 2050, the current urban population is expected to double, surpassing 9 million people.
Pen Sophal, secretary of state at the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning, and Construction, said lessons learnt from the forum can help shape national policy on urban planning.
“The forum on smart, sustainable and inclusive urban development plays an important role as it features presentations from both national and foreign speakers who have ample knowledge and experience in urban planning,” Mr Sophal said.
The Ministry of Land Management is working on a law on land management and urban planning to regulate the development of the real estate and construction sectors, he said.
“Through this forum, we will be exposed to innovations, knowledge, experience, and good models on urban management and the development of smart, sustainable and inclusive cities. These are important elements to help us draft a law on urban planning,” he said, noting that the ministry aims to have the law approved in 2020.
Growth in the real estate and construction sectors has risen dramatically in the last few years, and these sectors have become major economic drivers. According to Mr Sophal, investment in construction reached $24 billion during the last five years.
“We can see that there is high demand for the development of smart, sustainable, and inclusive cities,” Mr Sophal said.
“In Cambodia, cities generate around 50 percent of the GDP. However, growing cities also put increased pressure on infrastructure, land and services, which may make it less livable for those left behind.
“Unplanned urbanisation often leads to precarious informal living conditions,” he added.