Phnom Penh Takes Top Urban Environment Award

Phnom Penh municipality has again been selected from a pool of 400 cities worldwide to receive an award for foresight, innovation and resilience in bettering its urban environment.

At the annual contest hosted by the UK-based NGO World Lead­ership Forum, Phnom Penh vied alongside Albuquerque in the US, Taiwan’s Tainin and Mexico City in the environment category—which the city also topped in 2005.

Municipal Governor Kep Chuk­tema said the award validates the city’s progress on its way to becoming “a pearl city in Southeast Asia.”

“This award is a new achievement for Phnom Penh in 2008, but it also cautions its residents to maintain a good environment in our city,” he said Sunday upon his return from the awards ceremony held in London on Dec 5 and 6.

Deputy Governor Mann Chhoeun said the city’s “50/50 policy,” by which residents provide half the funds for development projects in their area, was particularly singled out for praise.

“Participation of residents and au­thorities in renovating the city is our strength to win the award,” he said, adding that the municipality has paid special attention to plant­ing trees and renovating parks.

Lim Phai, director of local NGO Urban Sector Group, said the 50/50 policy has plenty of downsides, with those most in need of assistance possibly being the ones who have the most trouble fronting their half of the funds.

“The poor could be excluded because they can’t pay,” he said.

The capital was also lauded for progress in flood control and waste management, according to Beng Hong Socheat Khemro, deputy director-general of land management and urban planning at the Ministry of Land Management.

“People used to throw rubbish out of their house or out the car window. This has changed drastically. Now, people collect the waste and throw it in the proper place,” he said, adding that the change in be­havior reflects the new pride residents take in their surroundings.

Srun Veasna, community infrastructure manager at the local housing and infrastructure NGO Sahmakum Teang Tnaut, said the competition overlooked the negative aspects of development such as the trend to build on the site of filled-in lakes.

“When filling in the lakes, they don’t think about the effects in other areas where there is flooding,” he said.

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