Phnom Penh’s infrastructure must be urgently improved if the city is to prepare for the coming population boom and the worst impacts of climate change, speakers said yesterday at a conference on urban development organised by the Czech non-profit People in Need.
As climate change affects the ability of rural populations to make a living, the capital’s population will continue to grow steadily, People in Need’s disaster management and risk reduction program manager Tep Sokha told the audience.
An increase in rainfall, meanwhile, is making agricultural work less viable, and big development projects, such as large hydropower dams, will continue to displace people from their land.
And as the population grows, severe flooding, fires, traffic accidents and waste management problems will become even more pressing issues.
“Tens of thousands of households will be affected by climate change,” Sokha said. “People always say that at the Year of the Snake, we will have a big rain – so, every 10 years. But now we see that 2011 was the biggest rain in 100 years, it’s getting worse and worse all the time.”
Many of Phnom Penh’s communes lack a comprehensive land-use plan to deal with the changes, and about 12 percent of the city still lacks basic latrines.
Also speaking at the conference, Fouad Bendimerad, of the Earthquake Mega Cities Initiative, noted that poor people are particularly at risk of losing everything during a disaster.
“There are no insurance policies for the poor. They aren’t there to cover you if you lose your livelihood,” said Bendimerad, who noted he himself had worked in insurance for 11 years. “The government has to provide a safety net for the poor.”
A 2015 report by People in Need found that “many urban poor settlements in Phnom Penh are located in disaster prone areas such as riverbanks, lakes and garbage disposal sites”.
Speaking to reporters at the conference yesterday, Phnom Penh Deputy Governor Eang Ony said the city is working to solve land management, traffic, sewage and rainwater drainage issues.
City Hall is also working with the Japanese International Cooperation Agency to complete a 2017-2035 master plan for Phnom Penh, he said.
“We are working on things like installing more canals and trying to re-erect the dikes around Phnom Penh,” Ony said in an interview. “We’re going to renovate all of the canals around Phnom Penh.”