Lessons from the Past

Source: Molyvann, Vann. Modern Khmer Cities. Phnom Penh, Cambodia : Reyum ; [Chicago, IL?] : Sales and distribution, USA, Art Media Resources, c2003

West Baray

P 26 Lessons

“This book takes lessons learned from ancient city planning and management and applies them to contemporary urban planning in order to help to formulate a national strategy for urbanisation and management of territory in Cambodia today. The study of ancient Khmer cities proposes two lessons for us.

The first lesson is that the dominant method of land management used by Khmer civilization has been the hydraulic system. In the flood plains of the Mekong River Valley, natural as well as man-made dikes, canals (prek), and ponds (beng) have been used to manage water distribution. In areas above flood level, such as on the plans of Angkor, large reservoirs (baray) have been built for the storage of water and network of canals have been dug to allow for wide distribution of water thus stored.

The second lesson is that , in the valley of the Mekong River, flooding is the major constraint to the development of human settlements. THe highest flood levels have generally determined the position of all Khmer cities which are located at the upper limit of the flood waters. To move cities farther away from the flood zones requires very substantial infrastructure to provide them with adequate water sources and sufficient water distribution systems”

P 27 Applications

“My ongoing research has identified strategic measures for managing processes of urbanization in the future. In this book, I sketch three pilot actions of land management which I find both of the utmost priority and relatively feasible to realize in the medium term.

The first project aims to reconstruct and rehabilitate the hydraulic system of the Angkor/Siem Reap region. Such a reconstruction will restore vitality to a region which, during the Angkorian era, supported an estimated population of 600,000 people. Urban development of the area will be complimented by tourism development. It is hoped that this development, if properly managed, can provide sufficient resources to reinvigorate the economy of the whole country.

The second project concerns the capital of Phnom Penh. This project creates a Greater Phnom Penh consisting of the entire area of the “Four Faces”. Technqiques of irrigation using prek should be adapted at a large scale for the whole of Central Cambodia. The restructuring of Phnom Penh’s future growth is connected to the development of the Prk Thnot River for multiple purposes (irrigation, electricity production, and flood control).

The third project aims to reassert Cambodia’s opening to the sea. As we have seen, the early kingdom of Funan relied on the port of Oc-Eo to connect the Kingdom to international maritime routes. The port of Sihanoukville, created in the late 1950s and 1960s, must fulfill this essential function in order for Cambodia to once again be integrated into the world economy. Sihanoukville has the potential to becomes the center for the entire Cambodian coastal region, an area which has languised for more than twenty years with virtually no development.”

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