Phnom Penh property experts used to have us believe that in the future, the city would expand to the west and the north, But Cambodian architect Vann Molyvann argues the development of Phnom Penh would best be directed to the south.
Speaking to around 100 architecture and construction students at Pannasastra University of Cambodia last month, Professor Vann said overcrowding in the city made development necessary, but that expansion should be made south, along the Bassac river toward to Takmao city.
“Phnom Penh is the capital of Cambodia, where a lot of people live and where most of the country’s economic activities occur,” he said. “The circulation and transportation of goods in and out Phnom Penh is 80 per cent of the country’s whole consumption, so that Phnom Penh is the country’s lynchpin to economic growth.”
The professor said that by 2015 the number of people living in Phnom Penh would increase to three million. The city would need three times as much land, with greater infrastructure to accommodate the expansion.
“I think that if the city develops to the south it is better than to the west as the south is an area that is higher above the river, which is key to avoiding floods.”
Tous Saphoeun, Dean of the Faculty of Architecture and Civil Engineering at Pannasastra University, agreed that the city should be expanded to the south rather than to the west, but said at present investors had not thought of the possibility of flood damage, only of their current business interests.
Tous said extremely high floods hit Cambodia every 50 years and Phnom Penh was exceedingly vulnerable to floods during the rainy season.
“During previous floods, the western areas where national roads 4 and 5 run were hardest hit, but according to Vann Molyvann’s idea, the south has never been affected as hard. There is a waterway which can be opened to release flood waters, the Prek Tnoat river,” Tous said.
He said Cambodia’s cities have faced environmental events since the sixth century – the Nokor Phnom era; the loss of Angkor Borey city; the fall from power and economic downturns have all resulted from floods. Longvek and Chaktomuk areas being much the same.
Investors should keep Professor Vann’s ideas in mind, he said.
Dith Channa, president of VMC Real Estate Company, said that city development experts like Vann Molyvann were thinking of life in the future, but that current industry and construction in the west and the north were mushrooming because it was easier to buy products via Preah Sihanouk and Kampot ports.
When thinking of the long-term future however, he said the professor’s ideas were right.
“I think in the next five to 10 years the development of the city in the west and the north will increase, but in the future Vann Molyvann’s ideas will be better than ours. Construction and investment is not targeted at the south of the city,” he said.
He added that the price of land in the south of Takmao city was currently priced at $400 to $500 per square metre, with residential areas on small roads at $100 to $150 per square metre.
The prices were similar to areas west and north of Phnom Penh, though sales activities are significantly less.