Study Compares Living Standards in Boreys and Non-Boreys

A study has compared the quality of life of people living in boreys and those who do not, as well as the impact flooding has on livelihoods
Green space and wetland has played an important role for improving quality of life in borey and non-borey communities. Kiripost/Siv Channa
Green space and wetland has played an important role for improving quality of life in borey and non-borey communities. Kiripost/Siv Channa

Urban environments are home to the majority of the world’s population and provide people with resources that meet their needs to a certain degree.

At the same time, urban citizens are exposed to environmental stressors, and ecosystems in urban regions are threatened by the urban growth and lifestyle related to resource consumption. These impacts do neither improve the urban quality of life for the majority nor the sustainability of the city.

Phnom Penh city is becoming a modern metropolis occupied by high rise buildings and surrounded by many residential developments, according to the Waibel et al in 2020.

Phnom Penh has a population of approximately two million people. There are 14 khans, 105 districts and 958 villages, consisting of 679 square km, according to the Ministry of Planning (MOP), 2019 National Census.

The Mercer 2019 measurement quality of life ranked Phnom Penh at 196 out of 231 cities in the world. This seems quite low in comparison to Vientiane, Laos at 171 and Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam at 153.

Quality of life (QoL) in Phnom Penh is connected to the level of building spaces and spatial level of the city in terms of green space and urban climate.

Public space is used for relaxing, exercising, and social functions after work or in the early morning as daily activities.

Borey Vs Non-Borey QoL

Piseth Phal, a Master’s student in development studies at Royal University of Phnom Penh (RUPP) and a lecturer at the Royal University of Fine Arts (RUFA), conducted recent research about public perception towards urban QoL using a case study in Khan Dangkao, Phnom Penh by comparing quality of life of people living in Borey and Non-Borey.

He conducted the research by carrying out a survey on Dangkao and Choeung Ek districts with a total 21,140 households. Borey New-World located in Sambou Village was chosen in Dangkao district because it has more boreys than other districts in Khan Dangkao. And in Choeung Ek district, the research was conducted in a non-borey community within Choeung Ek village.

All houses in the non-borey community are mixed styles, such as villas with a plot of land, flats, and traditional style houses. All of the houses are arranged with their owner's fence along the street.

He has found six key findings of differences and similarities of living quality in borey and non-boreys, such as both were moderately satisfied with public healthcare. Residents in boreys felt safer than residents in non-boreys.

Green space and wetland has played an important role for improving quality of life in borey and non-borey communities. Boreys have less community engagement, while non-borey communities need more infrastructure and improvement on community development.

Boreys were satisfied with their personal development more than non-boreys. Residents in boreys were more satisfied than non-boreys regarding their physical environment, and residents in both prefer good quality house construction, green building design and potential location, as well as less traffic.

“They have moderate access to both of the houses and we can see that the hospital is quite far from both of the residents,” Piseth said.

First key findings showed that both types of residents were moderately satisfied with public healthcare. They still moderately access the pharmacy that is the closest healthcare place when they encounter health problems and the hospital was quite far from the residents. On the other hand, most respondents were slightly satisfied with all healthcare facilities, which means service providers of healthcare seem low.

“Residents in boreys feel safer than residents in non-boreys and all of the incidents are quite rare or never happen to both. But, also we can see that in the physical environment the borey has a gate and fence, so it feels safer than non-boreys,” he continued.

According to the survey, 85 percent have never experienced any form of violence. A further 15 percent mentioned that they have encountered violence in the community. Illegal drug circulation and drug trafficking also occur more in non-boreys than boreys.

Residents in boreys felt safer than residents in non-boreys. Kiripost/Siv Channa
Residents in boreys felt safer than residents in non-boreys. Kiripost/Siv Channa

Impact of Seasonal Floods on Urban’s QoL

Ing Kvanthai, a PhD student in Educational Development at the Royal University of Phnom Penh and the Cambodia Development Resource Institute (CDRI), has done research regarding the “Impact of Seasonal Floods on QoL in Urban Phnom Penh, Cambodia” in Kamboul and Dangkao districts.

“Flooding is the most impactful natural hazard in this country [Cambodia] compared to Laos, Vietnam and Thailand,” he said.

From 1996 to 2020, floods damaged around 1,839 ha of crops, killed around two million cattles, destroyed 34,211 houses, and affected 307,596 people indirectly and 13 million people directly, according to the Cambodia Disaster Damage and Loss Information System report.

The cause of flooding in urban areas, especially in the Kamboul and Dangkao districts, is due to Stung Prek Tnaot,​​ which is considered a big river.

The upper catchment area is from Kampong Speu province from Oral mountain and is almost two kilometers from sea level and below the catchment area in Phnom Penh is within 10 meters from sea level. This leads to flooding during the rainy season, when the water flows to lower land areas and causes flooding.

The geographical areas, land-use change is a critical contributing factor to urban floods. The rapid growth of residential development, textile factories, special economic zones, landfills, and breweries in Dangkao district and Dangkao commune are not far from Stung Prek Tnaot, with 600 meters.

The survey indicated $16,105 was spent on repair costs on properties impacted by seasonal floods. The study found that the impact was approximately $34,996.

Based on the latest research about the displacement and conflicts happening due to floods has illustrated that there were displacement 48 times, conflicts with neighbors once, conflicts with family members 22 times, conflicts with employers 33 times and conflicts with authorities.

The other result indicated that more villagers were experiencing psychological problems caused by the floods, among 1,374 people in those areas. For the physical impact there were 754 people affected by floods, including skin diseases, flue, diarrhea and dengue fever.

Families with more females and vulnerable members, in people under the age of 14 or older than 65, pregnant women, disabled people and sick people, tend to have a negative probability in carefully tracking flood information since they do not know the information for preparation in advance.

Moreover, less development in infrastructures due to a lack of labor is also a problem during flooding, the researcher said.

“Based on this study, floods not just impact our livelihood, business, infrastructure or health, but also the psychological impact in four ways, like insomnia, anxiety, loneliness and stress. It significantly impacts vulnerable people and female members,” Kvanthai said.

He suggests improving flood impact management options based on the findings, such as Facebook, TV, neighbors and authorities are key for flood warning information sharing for better flood preparation, especially households experiencing house damage and those located along Stung Prek Tnaot.

During flooding, households with more female members were not able to move out to a safe zone. In order to reduce risks and impacts, authorities need to prioritize families with more female and vulnerable members in their rescue activities.

In addition, floods from Stung Prek Tnaot have psychological impacts. Thus, in the post-flooding phase, parents along Stung Prek Tnaot should track any psychological impacts more significantly and design action-taking solutions. Psychological centers and healthcare services should be more active during and after flooding along Stung Prek Tnaot.

Finally, households should prepare an emergency budget and basic needs for flooding from September to October. These months have a high severity of flood impact. By having supporting budgets and basic needs, the recovery from flooding would be easier and faster for physical and psychological effects, and livelihoods.

Michael Waibel, project coordinator of Build4People project, said the science workshop “Urban Quality of Life in Phnom Penh” aims to dig more research about how urban life can influence the quality of life and psychological levels of citizens in Phnom Penh to raise awareness on how important it is for behavior change to create better living in a good urban QoL city.

“We perceive in Phnom Penh that quite some people have a high quality of urban life, most of the people that are living in boreys and the sub-urban areas. But we have to take care of the urban QoL of those people as not having the expense on the overall society. Because for those people they take the cars to travel from their residential to the city center by not occupying the public space they can, they will contribute to emission so we have to find innovative ways to reconcile quality of life for sustainability,” he said on Thursday last week during the opening remarks.