Urban Planning as a Pilot Project for Decentralization in Battambang District, Cambodia

- Integrated planning as a basis for spatial coherence
- Participatory planning as a basis for social cohesion
- Planning for marginalized communities as a basis for social inclusion

The paper will provide an overview on the objectives, planning methods and procedures, the results achieved and lessons learned within a pilot project on urban planning at local level in Battambang District, Kingdom of Cambodia. Based on this case study, the chosen approach of integrated, participatory and inclusive spatial planning will be illustrated.
In 2003, the two pilot districts of Siem Reap and Battambang were chosen by the Ministry of Interior of Cambodia in order to promote decentralization and strengthen urban district authorities. One of the objectives in the pilot frame is testing spatial planning on a local level, by setting up a Master Plan for Battambang District, an urban district with an area of 115,4 sq km and a population of 142.878 (2006).
With the support of the European Union (Asia Urbs Program), the Konrad-Adenauer Foundation (KAS) and the German Development Service (DED), an internal working group of interdisciplinary members from different local departments was formed in 2004 and since then has continuously been training on-the-job in the field of urban planning. This District Master Plan Team had to develop all planning standards and procedures from the start. For their core task, the Future Land-Use Plan 2020, the planning method comprised five major working steps: 1). data collection, survey and analysis, 2). the setting up and discussion of development scenarios, 3). a vision for the future development of the district and 5). the final zoning. All working steps have been carried out with intense public participation involving all relevant stakeholders from different government institutions to civil society.
This approach is completely new to Cambodia, as until then all spatial planning has been carried out solely by the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction in Phnom Penh. The results achieved in the pilot project cover a broad range of integrated planning activities, such as setting up the Land-Use Plan, a Road System Concept, a Greenery System Concept and more.
As a lesson learned, comprehensive spatial planning in urban districts in Cambodia is necessary and can be done at local level, although it is time-consuming and takes a significant effort in human and financial resources. External support and capacity building is crucial for a success story, as is extensive public participation for the quality and acceptance of the planning.
At the current state, the institutional and legal framework for spatial planning in Cambodia is unclear and has still to be defined by the national authorities. Time will tell, whether the pilot project will give substantial input in the formulation of the necessary by-laws for spatial planning on the national level. Meanwhile the master planning process in Battambang District is continued with more detailed planning and implementation activities, such as the upgrading of informal settlements in the frame of the UNESCAP program "Housing the Urban Poor" and urban heritage conservation for the precious city centre from the French-colonial period.

Walter Koditek
German Development Agency (DED)
Master Plan Team
Battambang, Cambodia