Flash back to Orientation day: Sustainable Urban planning in the United States

What interested me the most during the Orientation of our Fellowship Program was urban planning issues presented by Sir Jeffrey Soule from the American Planning Association (APA). Mr. Soule shared his valuable experience, best practices in sustainable urban development, urgent needs for good city planning to cope with urbanization, economic inequality, and necessity of institutional linkages between government institutions.

Jeffrey Soule, American Planning Association
         Day 1 of the Orientation at ICMA Office, “Planning, Globalization and Sustainability”,                                                           Jeffrey Soule, American Planning Association (APA)

On the trip to my host community in Frankfort city, Kentucky, I was lucky to sit near the window in airplane and deep impressed by cityscape views of Washington D.C. In the United States, city is mostly developed as automobile-oriented city. Most of the cities are big with long roads and many green parking zones. Road infrastructure is great to solve traffic congestion.

Highway junctions
Highway junctions to solve traffic congestion

Look at these tiny houses! You can imagine how far you need to travel from one side to another. From environmental perspective, we can consider impacts in changing geography, air, noise, and water pollution generated from vehicles.

Urban sprawl
Urban sprawl

Getting back to Orientation day, Jeffrey Soule also raised concern that urban residents in Asia alone will add 800 million over the next 15 years that will cause urbanization. And it’s reminding me about my country, Cambodia is in relatively early stage of recent urban development with many opportunities for creating and developing sustainable eco-cities. The dominance of fastest growing Capital City Phnom Penh among urban areas in Cambodia is remarkable. More than half of urban population in the country is occupied by inhabitants of the Capital City. The city population is now close to 3 million residents in 2018 with density of 2,216 person/Km2.

© NICOLAS AXELROD_Phnom Penh, Cambodia_1
LOOKING SOUTH FROM THE VATTANAC TOWER © NICOLAS AXELROD

Balanced and efficient urbanization in environmentally sustainable manner is essential for the development of green cities. As Phnom Penh is experienced the process of rapid urbanization and capital has witnessed significant urban growth over the last decade, there are mounting challenges that city faces in basic service provision including drainage, sewerage and wastewater treatment, public transport and solid waste collection. With strengthening institutional capacity as well as investing in sustainable urban infrastructure, well-planned and well-managed Phnom Penh city can create livable sustainable urban spaces, comprehensive drainage and flood protection system, etc.

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Challenges that Phnom Penh city faces in basic service provision including drainage, sewerage and wastewater treatment, public transport and solid waste collection.


In contrast to Cambodian insufficient wastewater and sewage citywide treatment system and lack of green public spaces , there are some good examples can be seen along the street near the hotel – Hyatt Place, Washington D.C. – where all of ICMA fellows stayed during the orientation days. Besides creating aesthetic to building and neighborhood, small rain gardens help keep the city green by cleaning and collecting runoff water from pavements, and naturally remove pollutants substances going to the main drainage system.

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Large sidewalks with thriving gardens to capture stormwater and reduce the burden on city sewer system while bringing great benefit to communities, beautifying neighborhoods and protecting the environment, 1160 First Street, Washington D.C.


Lessons learnt from US experience based on strong commitment to the principles of environmental sustainability will be beneficial for me to find opportunities and reasonable solutions, and address challenges in urban planning and green city development project back in Cambodia.

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