Sopheap Chak

Riding the wave of change in Cambodia

Category: Enviromnment (page 2 of 6)

Things inspire me in Netherlands

Netherlands is one of European countries that speak Dutch. At first glance, this country was just similar to few other European countries such as Denmark where most of thing I have heard and know of is through the Prince and Me film. Well, I know this is no more relevant until I landed in this beautiful country and when I explored further about the nature of this society aside from my journey for the World Justice Forum.

The following are things that Netherlands impressed me the most and things that I wish Cambodians can enjoy the same way:

The world’s cycling leader

It is striking to see how cycling has been a way of life in Holland and it was recorded as the top country in the world in cycling. This country has developed a vast bike-friendly infrastructure to make cycling a practical and safe way to get on. With a wide route for cyclist, it also appears to me that cyclists are more prioritized than others on car or even pedestrians. While in Cambodia, the number of mobile phone penetration is surplus the number of population; Netherlands has more bikes than people. It was featured that “the 16 million Dutch inhabitants own 18 million bicycles.”

Full of bike

The friendliest people I have ever met

This assumption probably true as I was so fortunate to meet nice people in the Hague, Den Haag in Dutch—one of main cities of Netherlands and known as the city of justice and peace as the located in the city, including the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court.

From a senator who are considered as one of the high official in legislative bodies and they are entitled as Excellency in my country, Cambodia—where some would accompanied by few body guards or at least one and often on luxurious car or cars)—the lady senator who I met in the Hague, in front of the Parliament building was too kind on her way returning home on feet pulling her language on her own voluntarily guided my group to the parliament building as we were wondering around in front of the gate and asked her if this was the right place that we are looking for which is the parliament building.

She was so kind while introducing other two members of her, but from different parties (which in my country, different party members hardly talked to each other) who were heading on the route we were walking on. We were chatting for a short moment as if we have known each other since long and seemingly no class or position barriers between us. I feel so much convinced in the way these positive attitude can bridge the gap between those who govern and governed and this is a key that senior officials in other countries such as my own should learn to behave so that they could earn much respect and in return our social trust can build.


Just after a while, when my group was wondering nearby a traffic section waiting for a taxi, a gentle man walking with his dog stopped by and asked if he could help anything as we looked lost to him. In response, I bowed down a bit and we thanked for his kindness.

The cities that full of nature connection and conservation

Similar to other European states, Netherlands also has a habit of cultural conservation for their old buildings with full of history and human connection and of course they are just connected to much of nature including forests (most of their roads are decorated with a long trees that one can feel to walk in a forest); and rivers along their buildings in town and almost throughout the way.

In peace

This quite opposite to Cambodia where we would fill the lakes for a so-called development plans such as Boeung Kak which I would not debate on the eviction issue, but on the way that natural lake is filled with no advance study on social and environmental impact assessment) and the old buildings such as in colonial area are destroyed or decorated in a weird and wrong perception such as building at Bokor resort or some colonial building in Phnom Penh city.

In all, I could say I am in love with these peaceful cities of the Netherlands. I do believe in the way that people express it as the city of peace and this is indeed true since this has trapped the peaceful mind of an ordinary citizen like me and I hope readers enjoyed reading this and if persons in either government or non-government position that can impact the city master planning or development, please do visit and get Netherlands as a sample, although I am sure no one is perfect but learn something good from others and avoid their bad for a better human-kind society.

Once may argue for the case of Cambodia for example that we had experienced the civil war, genocide, etc that most of infrastructure including human resource were destroyed and without this we could reach that level as other developed countries, my question would be “to when we think we are ready, out of that war explanation and why a personal attitude that can be accessible and respectful to each other need also time to make it happen?” By putting other factors into constant; however, can we start doing it now with a measurable time-frame to reach that level?

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.”

Older posts Newer posts

© MMXVI Sopheap Chak

site by: KokiTreego up ↑