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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Planning a healthy future for Boeung Kak 'cesspit'

Planning a healthy future for Boeung Kak 'cesspit'

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Planning experts from around the world will arrive in Phnom Penh this weekend for

a month-long forum on the redevelopment of the Boeung Kak lake area, which suffers

from poor sanitation and crumbling infrastructure.

A local resident on one of the unpaved roads around Boeung Kak.

Six teams, made up of urban planners, architects, socio-economists and landscapers,

with at least one Cambodian in each team, will compete before a jury of international

experts. A prize for the best ideas will be awarded by Prime Minister Hun Sen on

November 20. The Phnom Penh Municipality will take the best ideas and form a new

redevelopment plan that may be financed in the future.

Project director Eric Huybrechts said the lake area could become a focal point for

the city linking the Central Market, Phnom Penh University, Olympic Stadium and northern

suburbs with they city's boulevards and open public spaces.

Huybrechts said the location of the railway station near Boeung Kak was also important

for the ASEAN plan to develop a 5,382 km route linking Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok,

Phnom Penh, Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi and Kunming in China. The $2.5 billion project

is still years away from becoming a reality, but transportation will be a major consideration

of the contestants. The planning competition will also examine the impact of redevelopment

on existing residents.

Today, the shores of Boeung Kak are home to about 4,000 families, as well as being

popular with budget tourists. However, many homes lack sewage systems and have pools

of stagnant water that attract mosquitoes, raising health concerns for some doctors.

One expatriate doctor based in Phnom Penh, who asked not to named, said there had

been an increase in the number of tourists with dengue fever, typhoid, diarrhea and

skin diseases who visited the clinic during the last three to four months.

Describing the lake itself as a "cesspit", the doctor said poor environmental

conditions and food handling at guesthouse restaurants were factors.

Another health professional at one of the city's international clinics described

the lake as "one of the most dirty places [in Phnom Penh]".

"The area has to be improved," the doctor said. "The people live in

closely-situated houses; there is a lot of water accumulated, especially dirty water...

it's a place for mosquitoes."

Owners of restaurants, guesthouses and shops servicing tourists said they had not

noticed any increase in illnesses at the lake. They said the high concentration of

tourists might account for it being perceived as a disease-prone area.

Andrea Ryder, owner of the Flying Elephant restaurant, said tourists often contract

infectious diseases such as dengue fever in the provinces or other countries, but

first show symptoms during their stay in Phnom Penh.

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