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Number of capital slums down

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A girl rests under makeshift shelter in a slum area of Chak Angre Krom commune in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district in 2013. Hong Menea

Number of capital slums down

The number of slums in Phnom Penh has dropped to 277 from 340 in 2013, a survey conducted by Sahmakum Teang Tnaut (STT) and released on Tuesday said.

While its data showed positive progress, it noted remaining challenges in places where residents don’t have land titles or access to basic services.

STT said the urban poor in Phnom Penh has dropped by 7,398 families or 22 per cent of the city’s population – from 33,605 in 2013 to 26,207 families last year. Of them, 88 per cent lived in eight outer districts of the capital.

Sixty-six communities were excluded from STT’s survey as they had either improved or vanished entirely due to development.

“However, the principal cause of this decrease (53 per cent of the total)was due to improvements in housing conditions (ie they are no longer considered poor),” the report said.

The survey found that 47 per cent, or 131, of the city’s slums, were located next to a river, canal, lake or pond, and 17 per cent were located next to a railway.

Up to 83 per cent of these settlements claimed they did not have land titles. Of the 277 total settlements surveyed, 41 said they were facing evictions due to development. While 63 per cent said they were living on someone else’s property.

“While many residents who lived in the settlements that have disappeared had to deal with eviction and relocation in the name of development, the 2017 Phnom Penh Survey revealed a positive side as an increasing number of settlements have improved living conditions and are no longer considered ‘poor’,” the report said, adding that much of the decreases in previous years was due to evictions or forced relocations.

But the STT warned that the remaining 277 destitute settlements were still facing challenges and were susceptible to eviction or relocation due to a lack of land titles. A majority of the slums were on state public land, and some do not have all basic services.

Kheng Van Net, STT’s technical programme manager, said there were three recommendations it would give to the government to urge help for these communities.

“First, site development – meaning that if the government needs development, they [the people] also need development.

“Secondly, if the communities need to relocate to other places, the new locations need to be equipped with basic services like electricity, water and a hospital,” he said, adding that the last choice would be that the residents are compensated for land based on market prices.

Phnom Penh City Hall’s poor community development office chief Leng Cheang declined to comment for this report, referring questions to Meth Meas Pheakdey, the city hall spokesperson who could not be reached.

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