Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Hun Sen Boulevard

A whole lot of attention was placed on the filling in of Boueng Kak lake in central Phnom Penh in recent years. Much of this was well-deserved, as it involved the eviction and displacement of thousands of local residents. I've written about this in previous posts, it was a public park in the early 90s but gradually became filled in with slums. One reason I think it got so much attention was because it had a backpacker area within it, so was noticed more. The view from the verandas facing the lake was pleasant, especially in the evenings as it was one of the only places to see the sunset in the city, in most other areas this was obscured by buildings.
However, a project that dwarfs that one in comparison has been ongoing for the last few years, and has received little attention in the media. The Boueng Tumpun wetland/lake is about 10 times larger than Boueng Kak was, but as it lies south of the city dyke at 271 not many have noticed. Again, I've previously posted on this area. Boueng Kak was around 120 hectares, but Boueng Tumpun is about 1000. It is also far more important in that the main drainage from the city flows south to this wetland. It has been farmed for morning glory and other plants for as long as anyone can remember, and supported a large community of subsistence agriculture.
The filling in of the verges of the area began long ago, but was halted. Around 2009 it became a major project, and although the municipality claimed it was only going to build a road across it, to join Monivong Boulevard with Highway 2 in Ta Khmao, this initial idea has been expanded.
The plan now is for a 60 meter wide boulevard with a central division, and a park somewhere in the middle. It will be 9 kilometers long when completed, as a guess I'd say 4 km has been graveled but not tarmacked yet, further than that is still just sand fill. Retaining walls have been built at various points along the length, so obviously there are plans for development along its length.
The official statements when filling in began stated that the plan was not to fill in the major part of the wetland/lake, as it serves as a natural filter for much of the runoff water/sewage that flows south from the center city. This water then flows further south and eventually into the Bassac River.It appears that this idea has been revised though and a number of cross roads will be built across the wetland, and it is also apparent that the western part has also had a considerable amount of filling in.
Until not long ago, it wasn't obvious how large these plans were, I've been around the reclaimed area for a few years, but was amazed on a recent visit how much progress has been made. Some of the roads may relieve congestion on other over-used routes to the city, but there are big plans for an expansion south, as can be seen from the pictures.

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