Life on the margins: Life inside Phnom Penh’s urban poor communities

Across rapidly developing Phnom Penh, landless urban poor communities face imminent threats of eviction, on top of a myriad of health and sanitation issues. What is life like for these communities on the margins?

Through the middle of Phnom Penh runs a fetid stream, a canal, in the loosest sense of the term, known as Boeng Trabek that shuttles rainwater and human waste to the flooded fields and wetlands south of the city.

In some parts along the concrete banks of the canal, there are high-rise apartments and other modern developments, places that are comfortable enough, if a bit putrid smelling when the water is low. But in other parts, especially the neighbourhoods downstream just north of the Boeng Trabek Water Station, the situation is more dire.

As the pavement gives way to muddy, almost-natural banks, the canal widens into a flat river of decay. Within this pooling, the water bubbles, churned with the gases of decomposing material, and over this toxic swamp juts a collection of stilted, clapboard homes. 

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