April 2019 Highlight: Rapid Urbanization: The Challenges and Opportunities for Planning in Asian Cities

Dr. Christopher Silver

What can be done to make urban areas sustainable and desirable places to live? What does the future look like for megacities? Participants delved into some of the problems and a few solutions when Dr. Christopher Silver shared his knowledge at the National Institute of Education (NIE)’s Sleuk Rith Contemporary Art Gallery in Phnom Penh. Dr. Silver has spent many years in Jakarta and used examples of Indonesian cities to explain some problems and strategies for urban development.

Characteristics of urbanization include population growth, expansion of space built on, and ongoing infrastructure developments. By looking at megacity Jakarta with its regional population of more than 30 million, we saw ways it and other Indonesian cities are dealing with increased urbanization by advance planning, use of technology, improving infrastructure, and managing water. Cambodian cities such as Phnom Penh (current metro population 2.2 million) have the opportunity to learn from these long-term plans.

When Jakarta was a compact “water city” of 150,000, its rivers and streams were managed. Now that Jakarta is a megacity, some of its waterways have been re-routed and even covered, and there have been devastating floods. Poor urban planning, deforestation, and other factors cause flooding in urban areas, and hygiene, disease, availability of clean water, and management of wastewater become serious problems. Jakarta also has the problem that its aquifers have severely limited recharge, restricting the availability of fresh water. Flooding is an important concern in Phnom Penh and other parts of Cambodia as well.

Several ideas for urban sustainability were presented, including the following:
  • Invest in high-volume and high-speed public transit
  • Discourage automobile use by making regular use expensive
  • Link lower income-affordable housing with public transit
  • Develop and enforce planning
  • Provide community-based infrastructure
  • Dredge rivers to address flooding and create greenways and public parks
  • Make waste management a top priority
  • Make clean, cheap water accessible to all

The audience expressed great interest in Dr. Silver’s presentation by asking numerous questions, many of them about what Cambodia might plan for the future.

Dr. Christopher Silver is a Professor and former Dean at the University of Florida’s College of Design, Construction, and Planning. He is internationally recognized for his expertise in urban development and management and has authored or co-authored five books, including Planning the Megacity: Jakarta, Indonesia in the 20th Century (2008). This event was part of a larger scoping mission to Cambodia led by Natharoun Ngo. A series of meetings with professors and directors of universities in Phnom Penh, international organization and specialist in architecture and urban planning took place to identify possibilities to support existing urban related curriculum and establish capacity building programs.

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