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Capital’s poor drifting to the edges: survey

Capital’s poor drifting to the edges: survey

THE past decade has seen a gradual shift of urban poor settlements from the centre of Phnom Penh to its outskirts, where communities lack easy access to employment, schools and health services, according to a new report.

“The 8 Khan Survey”, released by local housing rights advocacy group Sahmakum Teang Tnaut (STT) on Thursday, shows that the number of settlements in the city’s four inner districts – Daun Penh, Chamkarmon, Tuol Kork and Prampi Makara – has more than halved since 1997, while districts on the outskirts of town have swelled with urban poor.

The report also shows that in 2009, 69 percent of urban poor settlements were in Russey Keo, Meanchey, Dangkor and Sen Sok districts on the outskirts of the city, compared with just 32 percent in 1997.

“We hope that this survey will provide a point of reference and provide a point of debate on issues related to the urban poor,” said Nora Lindstrom, an adviser for STT. “We want the numbers to speak for themselves.”

While poor residents have spread to the city’s outskirts, infrastructure and other vital public services in the new settlements remained “largely inadequate”, the STT survey found. Just 39 percent of the settlements in the outer districts had drainage systems, compared with 73 percent in the inner areas, and nearly a quarter lacked road access. The state provided affordable water to 36 percent of outer district settlements and electricity to 41 percent.

The report comes following a year that saw the well-publicised evictions of the Dey Krahorm and Group 78 communities, both in Chamkarmon district. An information sheet released by STT in April reported that nearly 120,000 Phnom Penh residents – more than one in 10 – have been displaced or evicted from their homes since 1990.

The report also comes as the government readies its Draft Circular on the Settlement of Illegal Temporary Buildings in Cities and Urban Areas, which is set for formal consultations on December 18.

According to a copy of the draft, the circular will oblige local authorities “to collaborate with relevant ministries/agencies, and be completely responsible for preventing any new illegal temporary buildings in the capital city” and in the rest of the country. Phnom Penh Deputy Governor Mann Chhoeun could not be reached for comment on Thursday.