Cambodia is once known to be a war-torn country whose its infrastructure was severely damaged and left behind during decades of chronic civil wars; therefore, the core physical infrastructure, especially road, has been renovated, rebuilt and widened following the rapid economic growth for the last two decades. Despite the tremendous efforts in improving the national-wide road infrastructure, Phnom Penh still witnesses deplorable road condition which are in need of focal attention and remedy. This is because the road construction usually produces two mixed results; it provides short-term better roads following by long-term constant repairs and adjustments.
In the rainy season, because of the inefficient drainage system and poor garbage management, some roads become waterways which then leave behind water-logged deep potholes peppering on the roads after the rain subsides. One prime example pertaining to irresponsible and improper market garbage management, which blocks the small drainage system, can be seen on the small roads around Kandal Market, Psa Chas and Derm Kor Market, which are always flooded during rainy season. Consequently, daily commuters and especially random travelers unfamiliar with the road conditions are potentially prone to road accidents when trying to escape from or accidentally bumping into the potholes. In a heavy downpour, travelers normally steer clear of flooded roads and move towards the unflooded ones which are jammed and packed with untidy lines of vehicles which move sluggishly for hours. Such chaotic and annoying scene is common on most roads in the city and not only does it affect people’s time but it also worsens city’s sanitation.
In a dry season, scattering potholes of various sizes and shapes remain with cracked concrete in dusty roads. Should they be left unfixed any longer, the potholes are consequently widened and swallow up the entire block of the road, which makes them even more complicated to be fixed. One top of that, earth-full dump trucks which are not properly covered usually leave behind some amount of dirt which mounts on the roads day by day and on windy days the thick dust makes a mess of households and businesses along the roads. Consequently, street vendors, commuters, and household have always been complaining about their health being polluted and deteriorated by the dust. Thousands of residents in Phnom Penh will continue to suffer respiratory health problems because of air pollution resulting from dusty roads.
Factors contributing to the relative poor road condition with constant Repair
Under financial and technical constraint with corner-cutting practices and poor planning, some roads were constructed with the poor drainage system. Sooner or later, the drainage system needs changing, so some parts of the roads are removed to reconstruct the drainage. For example, in 2013, initiated by Phnom Penh city hall, drainage re-installation project for street 63 was financed by Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and sub-contracted with a Japanese constructor named Sumitomo Construction Company. After the drainage installation was completed, the street which had previously been removed was damaged and left unrepaired and in bad condition for a long period because of the conflicting responsibilities among the City Hall, JICA, and the constructor.
Given the wide-spread corner-cutting practices and poor quality in infrastructure development, this has set the infrastructure development for a strategic failure. The development of infrastructure should be done with good standard, if not the best, to ensure its durability. It is, however, not the case in Cambodia as there is little integrity of the authority who is tasked to develop infrastructure. They take this responsibility to benefit themselves at the expanse of the wider population. The poor condition of roads in Phnom Penh not only costs its residents lives, businesses and times but also potentially hurt the capital image and budget. Because most roads are surfaced or resurfaced with loose gravel and thin layer, they are easily damaged by heavy rains and unregulated overweight trucks, constant road repair, and construction undoubtedly is common in this tiny capital. The city roads, thus, are having three main issues: pothole, flood, and dust. Notably, Phnom Penh has several fascinating tourism sites which attract many tourists; however, not many of them satisfy with its road condition. The exhaustion in the dusty and bumpy road is still felt by most of the travelers although most roads have been improved and renovated. Should the issues of bumpy and dusty road continue, either the number of the capital’s visitors especially foreigners will decline, or they will spread this bad news to their foreign counterparts. This could eventually harm the capital image as well as its economy to some extent.
What can be done to improve the current road condition in Phnom Penh?
Transport infrastructure is considered an important blood fiber of the country’s economy. Favorable road condition indicates and leads to striving economic development and people’s well-beings. It is a prerequisite that road condition in the capital be improved and there are several ways the capital blood fiber can be made better and conducive for road users and residents along the road.
A well planning without corner-cutting practices but high integrity and standard: Even though it is difficult to cultivate a culture of integrity in the public sector or zero tolerance to corrupt practices, the development of road infrastructure should be done with a careful planning, minimal corner-cutting practices and good standard as the resources are scarce and belong to the people, not a small group of people. For dealing with the specific and common issues in road conditions in Phnom Penh: dusty roads, flooded roads and pothole and cracks, these suggestions below should be taken into consideration.
- Dusty roads: Although roads are paved with smooth concrete or rubber, dirt on the roads remain troublesome to travelers, businesses, and household along the roads. Therefore, the issue of dusty roads should be resolved by several ways. Firstly, strictly regulate earth dump trucks to be well-equipped with standard facilities and the carried earth should be covered properly. Those companies which violate this regulation should be fined and the revenues from such fines of unregulated trucks should be kept and utilized to compensate road-cleaning service. Secondly, construction sites along the roads should be well-enclosed to keep the dirt of sand and concrete powder out of the roads.
- Flooded roads: Drainage system should be widened while waste disposal in the capital should be well-managed because improper waste disposal is one of the most important reasons which flood the roads.
- Potholes and cracked concrete: It is never a good idea to construct roads which follow a series of constant repair. Roads should be paved to the right standard and with expertise using good materials, tight gravel and in a thick layer. More importantly, overweight trucks should be fined, stopped on the spot and unloaded to the right weight for the specific roads. Besides, either big or small pothole should be immediately fixed with care; otherwise, there will be a need to renovate the road.