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Grounding the Green City in Phnom Penh, Cambodia


The “smart” and “green” city is expected to replace polluted run-down cities. In Cambodia, these approaches are generally perceived by public and private actors as effective responses to problems exacerbated by rapid, poorly managed, and unplanned urban growth. In Phnom Penh, smart, sustainable and green city solutions are mobilized to turn the city into a “modern” Asian metropolis.

The spread of smart, sustainable and green city models within regional metropolises such as Phnom Penh is evidence of the success of these new urban development models, which no longer seem to be reserved for globalized metropolises. While the literature on these new urban models abounds, secondary metropolises in the Global South remain sparsely covered, although some researchers consider that “the possibilities of sustainable, smarter, and greener cities can be achieved in developing Asian countries” (Shen and Fitriaty 2018, p.7). The spread of smart, sustainable, and green city models from Singapore to secondary metropolises in the Global South is a testament to the increasingly active participation of these urban spaces, which are peripheral to but form a key part of “global connections” (Myers 2021, p. 30). This research proposes to explore the ways in which these notions are anchored and disseminated beyond the all-encompassing discourses of the neoliberal city in Phnom Penh. It is based on fieldwork conducted between February and June 2021 and May to August 2022 in Phnom Penh, where semi-structured interviews were conducted with public actors at the municipal and ministerial levels, but also with urban planners, architects, private developers, and residents.


Speaker: Dolorès Bertrais is a PhD candidate and teaching assistant at the Institute of Environmental Governance and Territorial Development (IGEDT) of the University of Geneva (Switzerland) since September 2019. From 2017 to 2019, she was a junior expert in urban planning for the Atelier parisien d’urbanisme (Apur), in the framework of a decentralized cooperation between the Municipality of Phnom Penh and the City of Paris. Through her research, she is interested in urban dynamics and new mechanisms of city production in Southeast Asia, and particularly in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Moderator: Dr. Samuel Chng is a Research Fellow and heads the Urban Psychology Lab in the Lee Kuan Yew Centre for Innovative Cities at the Singapore University of Technology and Design. He is an applied social psychologist and his research focuses on human behaviour and decisions in cities across a range of areas including mobility, sustainability and wellbeing (human adaptability and resilience). His work is multidisciplinary and applied in nature, focusing on delivering practical and policy impacts.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the publications and through webinars are solely those of the authors or speakers. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of The Center for Khmer Studies, Inc. The designations employed in the publications and through the webinars, and the presentation of material therein, do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of The Center for Khmer Studies, Inc. as to the matters discussed therein. The responsibility for opinions expressed in the publications and webinars are solely those of the authors or speakers, and the publication does not constitute an endorsement by The Center for Khmer Studies, Inc. of the opinions, views or issues discussed therein.


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