Sopheap Chak

Riding the wave of change in Cambodia

Category: Development & Education (page 1 of 8)

Mixed Feeling about Bokor National Park Legacy

10 years ago, I visited Bokor Mountain for the first time in my life and it was a historical experience for me to see enlarged and enriched forest covering by huge trees and diversified natural combination. I wished I had a digital camera at that time to capture the beauty I have witnessed to share to my readers (probably my own children or younger generation who has no chance to see such existing things). However, I would try to describe this in text and hopefully you all follow my guiding tour back in the past 10 years.

In a tourist van, sitting on the first row of left-side, near the window area, your heart and soul would just repeating calling your mother to help due to road condition which was just fit your van’s vehicles and looking down on the hill, you could see dept forest where you could not imagine what would happen if your van would just miss its route. However, only one car was able to move forward; luckily, there was commonality that car arrival is permitted in the morning and car departure route is allowed in the afternoon to avoid the movement dilemma. While fearing about the route, the fresh air flowing through all opened window relieved much stressful moment and it is just so fresh and healthy cold in which no international air-con system could compete, not to mention the current equipped Panasonic in a room I am sitting now. When stopping in the middle of the road, while our van was not about to move due to high hill and everyone was advised to walk a bit to reduce the weight in the van, you could smell the forest flowers and other nature combination in mixed colors. What impressed me the most is the huge tree along the way that I had never ever seen them in my life (it could be 5 or 6 person to be able to round that tree up). Up to the hill, I could view the forest coverage while the cloud was so near to my head and my body was about to freeze due to light-clothes dressing. I was at that time so proud to be a Cambodian where my leaders and nation left me such a great nature legacy.

Today, in early 2013, I revisited Bokor National Park; it was totally new in shape and nature. What I should thank to current development would be road condition which I had not to pray to mother to help like in the past, but somehow, I would wish to see some old structure to be kept so that it give a sense of nature to Bokor condition. Even surprising me the most, the huge trees which I had witnessed are gone. I did not know where they were, whether they were old and death or they are logged. Even worse, the old building in red or green color due to the old condition (under sun and rain for long), has been renovated into new and concrete color. It was a sad moment to see such beautiful heritage has been changed in shaped, similar to other buildings or structure, like the well-known Angkor Wat, which the restoration work by the Indian archeologists and engineers in removing the vegetation surrounding the temple had been controversial of either being restored to a lost glory or is being irreversibly damaged.

The disappearance of enriched nature combination that I have witnessed in past 10 years ago and later concerned with the development plan back in 2008 has been taken placed and I do hope the development makers would balance its further strategy to environment and natural preservation. Development that fails to take care its environment and the legacy for next generation is not a sustainable development itself.

Note: I could found a useful blog by Constructing Cambodia who has observed and shared great photo of old and new Bokor Mountain.

The dream of a greener and healthier capital for Cambodia

The dream of a greener and healthier capital for Cambodia

Written by on . Published in The new city on .

Cambodia is admired for its rapid transformation and infrastructure development. Recalling French colonization (1863-1953) and the Khmer Rouge period (1975-1979), Phnom Penh, the capital of the country, is rapidly becoming the latest Asian tourist playground with boutique hotels and new buildings.

Ron Gluckman, an American reporter who spent much of his time in Cambodia, labels Cambodia as one of Asia’s “economic basket-cases’ that has recently become the region’s surprise new tiger, roaring with double-digit growth rates and fueling a frenzy of new development projects. Cambodia has had its first construction boom in a thousand years and dozens of high-rises now reshape the skyline of mostly three-storey buildings in the capital Phnom Penh. Gluckmam also noted that the greatest economic growth in Cambodia could be seen along the highway of the capital towards the airport where cranes crowded in fields that only hosted stray cows just two years ago. The cranes are now gone, leaving vast buildings  topped with signs touting future plazas or a “Charming Tourist City.”

The success of illegal slum clearance efforts under the cloak of beautification, transformation and modernization of the capital in the last decade is reflected by the fact that the Phnom Penh governor, Kep Chuktema, was chosen as one of the finalists for the 2006 World Mayor Awards, an annual project organized by city majors. This project seeks to raise the profile of mayors worldwide, as well as  honour those who have served their communities well and contributed to the well-being of cities, nationally and internationally. The Phnom Penh municipality has adopted the 10 year-framework of a City Development Strategy (2005-2015) which aims to transform “Phnom Penh into the pearl of Asia.”

Despite the recognition given to government efforts in city development and beautification – efforts that come with the price tag of the cries of evicted residents – the city has not yet turned itself into a greener and healthier place. The city as it was in the late 1960s with the classical charming design of a city with towering trees along the main roads and main buildings  can hardly be seen today. The recent planting of small flowering trees along the roads is still not enough to make the city look as green as other cities in neighboring developed countries that I have seen.

 

 

Other  problems facing Phnom Penh are the apparent lack of any coordinated effort to implement the city’s urban development strategy and the absence of pedestrian sidewalks almost everywhere in town. If you are an environmentalist and want to commute to work or elsewhere hoping for a pollution-free and safe walk, you will  be sadly disappointed by this city which offers no  safe or secure pathway to walk along. If you’re lucky you will have just enough space to walk  alongside the heavy traffic without risking life or limb. The city’s sidewalks are now being used as parking lots or for commerce.

Here are some more images taken from travellingmark blog and you can also view this video :


Fortunately public parks have been recently established where the  public has free access to playgrounds for kids or exercise. These help  raise the social well-being of  people  as they can choose to do more sightseeing or take more exercise, and generally such parks also offer positive external benefits to society as a whole. In Japan, for example, where I spent two years studying,  I saw at least one large national park in each village where residents could meet up with their families and friends after work or on weekends and have BBQs. Such social arrangements contribute to the  well-being of people and the country and make for a healthier and more social society. People can enjoy their lives more with all these positive external benefits and also get together more often which has follow-on effects for the economy as they spend more money in the country for travel, eating out  or other consumption.

The rapid city development would be even given value addition if the Government would envision the town to be greener and healthier by planting more trees along the main roads as it had done in the past. It could also alot more public spaces for public parks or other spots for social well-being, rather than  transforming the country  into concrete buildings. To add further, while most of city development has been exchanged with the eviction of poor residents who are often not well compensated, development notion should be revisited. As Michael.Todaro and Stepen C. Smith posits that development must “represent the whole gamut of change by which an entire social system, tuned to the diverse basic needs and desires of individuals and social groups within that system, moves away from a condition of life widely perceived as unsatisfactory toward a situation or condition of life regarded as materially and spiritually better.”

Cambodia: Women Talent in Leadership

Cambodia: Women Talent in Leadership (Khmer Version)
Written by Sopheap Chak in attribution to Open Institute’s Women Program
The article is part of Open Institute’s Women Bulletin issue #7, December 2010

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