Sihanoukville, the coastal city and only deep sea port of Cambodia, is no longer a sleepy, undeveloped town for backpackers. This is a fact that should be welcome. But the rapid urbanization has caused social and environmental impacts that cannot be ignored. The lack of “Cambodian-ness” and “inclusiveness” is something that needs to be discussed.
The whole city is under construction, with cement trucks running across unfinished roads; large-scale cranes sweep across the whole city landscape ready to erect high-rise buildings one after another. At a very fast speed, the city has changed unrecognizably into a construction and casino boom town.
For any Cambodian, a visit to the city always sparks a soul-searching exercise. The frustration is caused by the city’s limited capacity to manage growth and the lack of Cambodian-ness in the development process.
Simply put, the city’s basic infrastructure was not ready to handle the abrupt influx of massive capital flows. The resulting development is anything but a livable city. It is dusty in the dry season and muddy in the rainy season, with bumpy, unfinished – and sometimes unpaved, due to new development — roads almost everywhere. Utility requirements in regards to waste management, sewage systems, and water supply have gone beyond the city’s original capacity.
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