Creating Eco-Friendly Urban Spaces

The Initiative for Urban project aims to create environmentally-friendly urban spaces by introducing features such as gardening at home
View of Phnom Penh city. Kiripost/Siv Channa
View of Phnom Penh city. Kiripost/Siv Channa

Meth Monthary, initiator of the ‘Initiative for Urban’ project, has gone from being a college student majoring in Architecture with knowledge of urbanization to launching a project regarding urban development and real estate after realizing that home gardening for eco-housing plays a key role in mental health, ecosystems and food safety.

After working with NGOs and studying about local rural communities, the 27-year-old has transferred his knowledge related to the environment into an urban setting. He said urban development plays an essential role in impacting the environment as a whole.

“We have noticed that the house development projects in Cambodia, especially in Phnom Penh city. Today, flats are the most popular housing style. Actually the tradition is that our ancestors lived with a big yard space enough for growing crops, and it is quite important for our family's food safety. Second, it is also an influence for mental health,” Monthary said.

He added that it also contributes to a better environment in the city and because nowadays, urbanization development concentrates on building more flats, tall buildings, and somehow it causes soil to go into the lakes​ to develop modern real estates and that forms part of pollution for the environment and biodiversity.

“The more we live in flats next to each other, without enough space it is like we separate ourselves with the space yard, natures surrounding us. Soon, there will be less biodiversity and increasing air pollution,” he said.

Monthary said that urban areas are a major source of impact on climate change and other environmental pollution. Therefore, people should talk about this topic more and raise more awareness about the urbanization development issues to the public.

Meth Monthary
Meth Monthary

Monthary is the initiator of ‘Initiative Urban’ project that aims to raise awareness of equitable, sustainable and smart urban and community development. It has the vision to see urban development benefit informal workers and vulnerable individuals to make them aware of their impact in the cities and communities in which they live.

He said urban settings have areas for biodiversity conservation, and should provide safe and environmentally-friendly areas for all. They should also provide homeless people and those in slums with housing and shelters that are environmentally-friendly, while equipping them with sufficient skills to support themselves.

Urban development has contributed greatly to the occurrence of climate change and biodiversity, as the city is a crossroads of various sectors. Everyone who lives in cities contributes to its environment.

The project was developed from the 2018 Heritage Journey, which took young people living in urban settings to local communities and historical sites to learn about the history, location, geography, biodiversity and livelihoods of the people in Longvek to study the location as part of the project, Longvek geography: People's livelihood based on Tonle Sap.

After distributing study materials to children at Longvek Primary School, he went to Andong Russey village, Kampong Chhnang province to learn about pottery making. The project in 2018 received financial support and study materials through fundraising.

“Until 2020, I noticed the urbanization development in Cambodia is still in a controversy. Therefore, it pushed me to keep focusing on working more on urban development,” he said.

In 2020, the project visited Koh Ses, Kep province to study sea horses and marine biodiversity. It also went to Trapeang Sangke community to study coastal communities and mangrove trees. The end result was a short animation about coastal communities, sea horses and mangroves, funded by the Korea SHE Foundation.

In 2021, the project worked on a documentary photo project called #Live Sustainably 101, which explores how to live in an environmentally-friendly (eco-friendly) way. It also documented the story of a woman's menstrual cycle and the use of e-bikes through interviews with seven people from different backgrounds, genders and gender identities. This was funded by Angkor Photo Festival's Cambodian Media Fund, funded by CFImedias, French Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs.

Big yard living space is important for food safety, mental health and environment. Kiripost/Siv Channa
Big yard living space is important for food safety, mental health and environment. Kiripost/Siv Channa

He believes that even though these two workshops are small, it will help influence the habit of planting in the house.

With four core team members of the project, there are already two workshops. The Habitat Planting Workshop is a sharing program that looks at growing ornamental and home-grown plants to connect the people of the city with their habit of planting at home.

It was conducted on August 14 at Silapak Trotchaek Pneik // by YK Art House​, with a focus on ornamental plants, taught by Repot.Derm, a business selling ornamental plants. A total of 18 participants took part.

This workshop is part of the Eco-Housing project implemented by the Initiatives from Urban project, which aims to raise awareness of the city's impact and environmentally-friendly urban development with financial support from Korea SHE Foundation.

Another workshop was held on September 11 at a site to process kitchen waste into compost called ‘Leng Dei’. This focused on soil types and mixes for growing different types of plants, including plants for home cultivation. A total of 11 participants attended the workshop, which was taught by Repot.Derm and Compost City. Compost City also has a lot of experience with eco-friendly lifestyle, soil compaction, composting and composting from kitchen waste.