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Urbanisation brings opportunities, challenges

Sum Manet / Khmer Times Share:
The skyline of Phnom Penh has developed quickly in the last decade. KT/Mom Sophon

Rapid urbanisation in Phnom Penh in the past decade has created jobs and reduced poverty, but better urban planning, management and infrastructure are needed to avoid further sprawl, congestion and pollution, according to a new World Bank report released yesterday.

The report, titled Urban Development in Phnom Penh, underlines mounting challenges in the provision of basic services, including drainage, wastewater treatment, public transport and solid waste management.

Despite an existing planning process, gaps in financing and technical capacity often lead to bottlenecks in the development of urban, spatial and land use plans, especially at the Khan and Sangkat levels.

“Phnom Penh faces an important opportunity to positively shape its future, create more jobs and enable better services,” said Inguna Dobraja, the World Bank’s country manager. “Urban development that is well-managed and planned can make a world of difference in ensuring better living standards for generations to come.”

The report suggests a number of policy reforms for more competitive, sustainable and inclusive city growth.

First, there is a need to strengthen institutions and governance to enable more coordinated and efficient urban development.

Second, urban planning and implementation should be improved by issuing enabling regulations and codes.

Lastly, the authorities should invest in sustainable urban infrastructure to enhance livability and competitiveness and implement inclusive policies to curtail inequality.

“Well-planned cities allow the socio-economic benefits of urbanisation to be fully harnessed and can create vibrant, livable, urban spaces. This is fully possible for Phnom Penh, but it will be a long-term process and will require a strong commitment from government, citizens and the private sector,” said Judy Baker, lead economist at the World Bank and co-author of the report.

The study found that Cambodia’s average rate of urban expansion was one of the highest in the region, second only to that of Laos. It noted, however, that the population density in Cambodia is significantly higher than in Laos, with 8,600 people per square kilometre in the kingdom versus 3,200 for Laos.

Driving the kingdom’s growth is the rapid urbanisation of Phnom Penh, the only urban area in the country with a population greater than 100,000. The capital grew to 160 square kilometres in 2010, from about 110 square kilometres in 2000.

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