Capital’s Urban Master Plan Adopted

Capital’s Urban Master Plan Adopted

Phnom Penh’ long-term urban master plan which blueprints the city’s development until 2035 was officially adopted by the Cambodian cabinet in December 2015.

The comprehensive master plan is Phnom Penh’s second blueprint after the first was produced in the French colonial era. The plan aims to guide land use and management including real estate management, economic development and city expansion in its administrative landmass.

In 2005, the municipality adopted the City Development Strategy and originally formulated a master plan for Phnom Penh’s development with assistance from the French government, intending to guide the city development until 2020. But in April 2015, the Cambodian government saw a need to upgrade and extend the plan to 2035 as conditions evolved. The revised plan was managed by the National Committee of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction and Phnom Penh municipality officials.

The urban plan has been adjusted to comply with Phnom Penh’s comprehensive transport master plan designed by city hall and Japan’s development agency JICA in 2012 which created a traffic master plan for up to 2035.

“The urban master plan isn’t only about the city’s expansion, it is also about the population and economic growth to prepare, manage and improve the city in the future,” Long Dimanche, Phnom Penh municipality spokesman told the Phnom Penh Post in April last year.

Today, Phnom Penh stretches across a landmass of 678 km2, expanded from 375 km2 in 1998, divided into 12 districts, 96 communes and 897 villages. The 2013 population census showed a population of about 2 million with a density of 2,468 people per km2 growing with an annual population growth rate of 2.3 percent which translates to about 10,000 families per year. The census projects the city to reach three million by 2020.

Phnom Penh is seeing rapid urbanised growth and the construction of new and large commercial buildings. So far, 628 buildings have been erected higher than 5 floors, while over 110 residential blocs (borey) are either complete and being constructed, not only in the city centre but also in the suburbs.

This 14th century capital is now being traversed by more than 1.7 million motorcycles and over 340,000 cars. But more and more vehicles are coming as the capital counts vehicle registration growth of 7-10 percent annually.

Because of these challenges, urbanisation experts and businesspeople warn that without effective urban planning and transportation blueprints, Phnom Penh will lose its attraction for investments, especially on real estate market. They argue that anarchic city zoning, traffic congestion, limited parking, deteriorating infrastructure, ineffective waste management and rapid population and vehicle growth can hurt the city in many areas.

Hourn Phany, an experienced realtor, says most of the city is a mish-mash of business, residential and industrial use areas. He said the situation in Phnom Penh isn’t like in other countries, where there are often clear zoning boundaries that limit what kind of businesses can open there, if at all, or if the area is only meant for residential structures. “Phnom Penh is very complicated now, and even professional urban planners would have a very hard time changing things,” he said.

On behalf of city hall, Long Dimanche admits these issues are hurting the city since the city master plan is not yet ready. After the plan is adopted and takes effect, those problems will be prevented, he told Construction and Property Magazine in 2014.

“Sometimes in the plan, it states the land should be built on a canal, but then people buy the land and build anything they want, since we don’t have city master plan to tell them. They are innocent,” he said.

Responding to worries raised by civil society groups that the master plan was approved without consulting with them, he told the Phnom Penh Post that many specialists outside the municipality have contributed to the master plan.

“We have been working on this master plan since 2002 and had help from many groups of Cambodian professional sectors such as architecture, land management, landscaping, environmental, engineering, and [from the] cultural aspect and we had advice from French experts,” he said, according to Phnom Penh Post.

According to the previous master plan which was designed by a French expert, Phnom Penh will basically expand to the northwest and west (for middle and low income families) with mainly private sector developments to the north and south (for high and middle income families). The plan’s concept supports decentralised urban development with a central core in Phnom Penh.

But legendary Cambodian architect Vann Molyvann said at a construction talk a few years ago that Phnom Penh’s development should be directed to the south along the Bassac River toward Takmao city. “The city should develop to the south better than to the west as the south is higher above the river so it can avoid floods,” Molyvann said, as reported in the Phnom Penh Post.

Tous Saphoeun, Dean of the Architecture and Civil Engineering Faculty at Pannasastra University of Cambodia agreed 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.

“During previous floods, the western areas where National Roads 4 and 5 run were hardest hit, but the south has never been heavily affected. There is a waterway which can be opened to release flood waters, the Prek Tnoat River,” said Tous.

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