Officials Seek Solutions for Overcrowding

With the population of Phnom Penh expected to double in the next 20 years, district governors and city officials began a three-day workshop Thursday to come up with plans for coping with the growth.

Phnom Penh’s population, estimated at 1.2 million, is expected to grow to 2.3 million by 2021, according to projections based on 1998 census figures. Overall, Cambodia’s population will grow from an estimated 13.1 million persons in 2001 to 15 million in 2006.

“With this data, we will be able to count the number of cars, roads, schools, hospitals that the city will need in the next 10 or 20 years,” said Mom Sandab, director of the city’s planning department.

Health and education will be the city’s first priorities, Mom Sandab said, with the city looking for ways to boost an already inadequate hospital and school system to cope with a growing population.

Officials will also look to set up education programs geared at teaching women about birth control, Mom Sandab said, noting that large families generally suffer greater poverty.

Women in Phnom Penh are expected to have fewer children in the future, from an average of 3.16 children each in 2001 to 2.44 in 2021.

The city, with Japanese aid, is using the population projections to develop a master plan for coping with increased traffic. A pilot public transport project is slated to start in June.

The city will also use census data to establish a database containing names and addresses of Phnom Penh residents with an eye to using the detailed information for fighting crime, said Mom Sandab.

Local officials have been ordered to file within 15 days a report with the Municipality offering suggestions for their own districts.

The planning department will then work out a master plan for all of the districts to improve city services in general, Mom Sandab said.

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