Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) is the independent agency of the Japanese government that coordinates Official Development Assistance (ODA) for economic and infrastructure improvement in developing countries. JICA offers technical cooperation, ODA loans and grants, all paid by Japanese taxpayers.
JICA project formulation advisor Uchida Togo sat down and spoke with the Post about the current state of infrastructure in Phnom Penh and the provinces and the projects that JICA is involved with in the Kingdom.
Post: What do think about the situation of infrastructure in Phnom Penh?
Uchida: Overall, as you will know, Phnom Penh has been growing very quickly, with lot of activity in the private and public sectors. We want to help promote development, but on the other hand, development without a good plan can lead to difficulty in managing urban growth in the future.The way we see development in Phnom Penh is that it is beginning to need to cope with the issues that arise when a city experiences rapid growth, such as traffic congestion, garbage management, wastewater treatment and rising demand for both water and electricity. The objective of our assistance is to address these needs in the proper way.
What has JICA been working on with the Phnom Penh municipal government?
We have been engaged in many areas. We view development of infrastructure comprehensively and realise that it’s more important to have many different infrastructure projects that work together rather than focusing on individual projects to address individual issues. In Phnom Penh, we’ve provided assistance in the areas of transportation, energy, flood protection, drainage and water.
What kinds of funding does JICA use?
It varies. We are involved in quite a bit of grant assistance in Phnom Penh, but we also often use loan financing.
Why does JICA provide this kind of assistance?
Very simply put, Phnom Penh is the capital of Cambodia and is its most important city in terms of economy and culture. If Phnom Penh develops soundly, we believe there will be substantial benefits for the rest of the Kingdom. With this in mind we’ve been actively assisting the government in the key sectors I mentioned before as well as energy, health and education. We do this through careful planning with the Cambodian government in order to identify key projects and sectors for cooperation. This is how we identified traffic congestion and environmental degradation as increasingly important issues, which we are now working on to address.
All told, how much funding has Japan provided Cambodia?
The total disbursement from Japan to Cambodia between 1992 and 2012 was $2.2 billion, which includes technical cooperation, ODA loans and grant aid. We are still calculating financial data for 2013, which we will release in March 2014.
What are some of the recent projects in which JICA has been involved?
In terms of water projects, we recently completed a water treatment facility in Phnom Penh – the Niroth water treatment plant. It is already operational. We are involved in a lot of drainage projects in Phnom Penh, as it is still a major issue for the city. We’re involved in one phase-two project and a phase-three project in drainage in the capital.
We are currently putting drainage pipes underground, which is disrupting traffic. We are trying to minimize the traffic jams we cause by the work to be on the side of the road rather than block the entire road, to whatever degree is possible. This drainage project began in 2012 and it will be completed in 2015.We are also working on a transportation master plan. This requires us to analyse current traffic volumes and pinpoint existing and potential bottlenecks. We are working with the city government on that.
Additionally we are putting an electricity master plan for the city together, as well as plans for drainage and sewage. With so many people living in Phnom Penh, wastewater is a major issue to address.
What other projects is JICA involved with in Cambodia?
We’re working on replacement and expansion of water supply infrastructure for provincial capitals, which also involves capacity building. This is all done through a mix of technical cooperation, grant aid and loans.
What message do you have for the general public?
The end user of this new infrastructure is the people. We would like to emphasize that this infrastructure can improve living conditions, but if you don’t take care of it, then it will not last long. If you do take care of it, you will be able to use it for a long, long time. We are assisting in drainage improvements in Phnom Penh with the goal of reducing the impact of flooding caused by rain on the city. For this to be most effective, people will need to stop littering and keep the streets clean so that the drainage systems can function properly. We know this kind of change takes some time, but we have to promote these ideas along with assisting with physical infrastructure so that living conditions in the capital can further improve in the future. We are also doing this in the provincial cities through Cambodian counterparts who have accumulated knowledge and experience working with us in Phnom Penh.