Concerns about the Future Continue – Sunday, 22.3.2009

Posted on 22 March 2009. Filed under: *Editorial*, Week 604 |

The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 604

On 16 March 2009, the Mirror carried the headline Concerns about the Future of Phnom Penh Continue – another occasion to collect different voices about the actions of the administrative and the political leadership of Phnom Penh – after they had decided to almost completely fill in the Boeng Kak Lake.

On 15 March 2009, one day earlier, when I was in Carbondale, in Southern Illinois in the USA, the local newspaper, the Southern Illinoisan, carried an article New Lakes Should Solve Many Problems.

Surely, the situation is different in many respects. But the concern expressed there is common around the world: how to manage water resources in the context of modern city societies, where economic considerations, economic goals and gains, for some time had put aside more basic concerns for a livable natural environment. And only when disaster strikes – like during the floods last year in Phnom Penh – those directly affected are concerned for the future – and more people join in being concerned. More people – not all.

What does it mean that a simple 3-minutes video, taken in November 2008, and shared under the title Floods in a Phnom Penh District – Many residents are being harmed by floods in Russey Keo district, Phnom Penh on the Internet, was viewed by now more than 470,000 times?

The article in the Southern Illinoisan pointed to the fact that not only careful water management is important in a time of climate changes, when it becomes clearer that before that natural resources, including water, need careful attention – also the quality of life depends on lakes: “Today, many lakes are filling with silt. Demands are increasing, and where could new lakes be built? – Fish, waterfowl, and sportsmen thrive using lakes…. Southern Illinois needs reclamation based on good science for renewed soils, productive fields, meadows, forests, and sustainable water.”

The article concludes with the concern that “today’s ill advised and arbitrary regulations” might deny future generations to be able to enjoy the life which nature provides.

Before coming to Cambodia in 1990, I lived for some years in the city of Hamburg, which has a beautiful big lake in its center – a natural place of recreation, and an envy for many other cities.

Singapore, one of the outstanding examples of big city development in Asia, has retained the name of the “Garden City” – in spite of the scarcity of land on the Island of Singapore, sufficient green space is conserved all over town and protected against covering it up with buildings.

Like many other great cities, Manila and Mexico are proud to have cared to retain a lot of parks in their ever expanding cities.

The city of New York has not only the huge Central Park in its midst, but also a Department of Parks & Recreation: “Learn about your options for giving to Parks & Recreation and help ensure a green New York for many years to come!”

Phnom Penh seems to be moving in the opposite direction – its administration does not observe international trends in city planning, and also the population in general does not seem to be much concerned – apart from those who are being displaced.

How will future generations look back at the present history, when several communities in Phnom Penh, comprising of thousands of families, are relocated against the will of many to make place for huge construction complexes: expensive high rise residences, business centers, and shopping malls – while the present global financial crisis makes it difficult to estimate not only how all these modern construction projects can be financed – but also, who will be able to pay for the use of this newly created high cost space – if it can be completed.

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