The 7 January Overpass
My wife and I are so glad today to be able to join with Excellencies, Oknha and Lok Jumteavs, ladies and gentlemen on this auspicious occasion to put into official use the 7 January overpass, as we are going to celebrate tomorrow the 33th anniversary of the January 7 victory day over the regime of Pol Pot’s genocide. It has been our anticipation to see this overpass ready for traffic here at the formerly known as the Sangha Hospital junction road. Now we call this junction the overpass 7 January. It is ridiculous that some people have named a political party after their own names but they are not satisfied when we name this junction after the victory day of January 7.
The traffic at this junction has been one of the busiest and the jam has happened the most. Today, right after this ceremony, our people will be able to travel on it and traffic will be more manageable in the western part of Phnom Penh city. You may remember, as we celebrate the inauguration of the overpass at Kbal Thnol roundabout, June 24, 2010, we then informed our people of the decision to build the second overpass here. A few months later, on December 29, 2010, we launched the groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of the 7 January overpass. The construction took a little over one year to complete.
The 7 January overpass in place will certainly help improve traffic into and out of Phnom Penh not only by our people but also foreign visitors through the Phnom Penh International Airport which is on the western side of the city. It has always been a difficult moment when we have the visits of foreign dignitaries and the convoys through this junction road, take for instance the delegations to participate in the AIPA meeting last year, always blocked the crossing traffic flows from the side for a long time. That will no longer happen after the ceremony is over in two hours time.
I am so grateful for the collaboration together with the supports from the Royal Government of Cambodia, the Ministry of Economy and Finance and various other concerned institutions for allowing the Municipal of Phnom Penh to implement a form of financing, which they called “using the Phnom Penh’s money to finance Phnom Penh’s development,” for this project. I then compared that to our traditional way of packing palm sugar with palm leaves. You may know that Phnom Penh leased Koh Pij to private development group and the money made from the contract has been used to develop three major infrastructures in Phnom Penh so far: 1) the New Monivong Bridge at Kbal Thnol; 2) the Kbal Thnol Overpass and 3) the 7 January overpass.
This form of financing has been cutting short the need to go through lengthy process to finance the projects. This also has reflected the fact that decentralization and de-concentration of power has proven to be effective for sub-national level authority to handle development projects. This has also shown that we have a way to working around the power of concentration. With these developments in place, we see that Koh Pij is no longer a grassy area but a newly developed town with colossal buildings to serve every purpose. We now can offer to organize huge meetings like those of the Non-Aligned Movement, the South-South meeting, etc. I have also met with a group of thousands of scouts and there are a lot of spaces available.
The grassy place has now become a place of numerous colossal multipurpose buildings, but also providing jobs for many. In addition to the Koh Pij development itself and the job it has provided, as I already mentioned, Koh Pij development has brought Cambodians three achievements along the way – the New Monivong Bridge, the Kbal Thnol Overpass, which costs over 12 million USD, and the 7 January Overpass, which costs over 13 million USD. The Koh Pij development has also paid a considerable amount of tax on its tangible assets. That is why I state that using Phnom Penh’s money to finance Phnom Penh’s development project is a correct vision and implementation.
It has also been an effective planning and implementation by the Municipality of Phnom Penh with regard to the construction of roads in Phnom Penh in form of 50 + 50 collaboration (for every road constructed, the residents along the road together will provide 50% of the needed amount and the Royal Government will cover the rest) with the Phnom Penh residents. It has been an amazing success that we now have asphalted and concrete roads all over the city. We are now expanding our ability to asphalt extension roads from Phnom Penh and main national roads, where for few we have the contributions from the people, but for the rest the state covers them all.
If we compare Phnom Penh now to the Phnom Penh of 1979, its size has grown double. In the process of development, numerous communes from Kandal province have been taken on four occasions to be included as parts of Phnom Penh. Extensively Phnom Penh goes twice the size of 1979. However, intensively, Phnom Penh goes between five and seven times more than what it was. What do I mean by intensive development of Phnom Penh? Phnom Penh in the old day consisted of building of between 500 and 1,000 square meters. As of present, there are buildings in Phnom Penh that are up two 20,000 square meters. That is what I mean intensive development of Phnom Penh.
In the old days, only two lines of house along the paved roads were what we called the city. In about 100 meters off the house lines were rice fields or rural areas. I used to go and transplant rice at O Baek Ka Am (to the southern part of Phnom Penh city). We could not do so any more now. There are no rice fields to plant rice but universities, factories and enterprises. In the Tuol Kork area of Phnom Penh then there were sporadic houses here and there. When the Vietnamese voluntary army withdrew from Cambodia, the Tuol Kork area was returned to the Cambodian authority. We set up a commission to distribute houses and housing lots among staff of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Many of them decided not to take what was given for them because they were afraid of darkness, as there was no power, and the road condition was impassable.
Now, it goes without saying that everything is astonishingly different. You may see the difference with your own eyes as many TV stations have shown how the Phnom Penh city looked like in those days before and right after 7 January 1979. The whole city was deadly silent and there was not a single car running in the street. People could go to bed in the street for days. Some people may say whatever they wish to but as a human being their conscience could not deny the fact that Phnom Penh in 1979 was an empty city. More so, their conscience would not be able to deny that present day development of Phnom Penh as well as traffic jam has called for further road and infrastructural management and development.
As of now, Phnom Penh is known to be a crowded city. The streets are packed with over 230,000 cars and over 900,000 motorcycles. We have been facing with so many challenges to resolve demand for a city living style and condition. We need more good roads, running water and electricity, etc. As far as electricity is concerned, please reserve the Royal Government some understanding: though we have power generation from the Komjai hydropower plant, we have yet to maximize the supply of electricity. We could not generate electricity with the amount of water we have in the reservoir for a short-term demand but dry the reservoir. We have to generate electricity and supply in stages.
In the old days Phnom Penh produced only 40 mw of electricity, you knew that. After the liberation on 7 January 1979, we brought in more generators from the former Soviet Union. As of now Phnom Penh consumes over 400 mw of electricity. Doing the math you can see easily that the consumption has gone up ten folds. What is even more interesting is that we have a city to manage and provide electricity like every other country. Unlike under Pol Pot when there was no city, we now have set up a committee to oversee the contest of the most beautiful city.
Having said so I wish to thank the Municipality of Phnom Penh for every effort it makes to achieve the city beauty through development of many parks. It is my greatest pleasure and joy to see parents walking their kids in the parks. It should be noted that in those parks people could exercise with their feet on tile flooring. It has been a general case in every country that overpass needs to be built to answer to growing traffic. It is not exceptional for Cambodia as we have moved from the time when commuting from one place to another by bicycle or taxi bicycle to real taxi and bus.
It should be noted that in 1983 or 1984, there was no question of waste management as there were no major waste to tackle and there were no need to purchase waste collecting trucks. The reason was simply because we had a small population in the city and there were not much to eat. As of present, we have 1,600 tons of waste per day. This volume of waste would be amazing when you multiply with 365 days. For the sake of our city’s beauty, I would urge our people to always place their refuse in waste bins and to be environmentally conscious. Let’s all make effort for the beauty of Phnom Penh.
Please allow me to take this forum to appeal our people to take precautionary measures while driving so that traffic accidents can be avoided. The other night, I saw a report of a traffic accident on TV. It was hardly believable to see that a car ran into the street divider and turned upside down. I just wish that our people to respect the traffic rules, while keeping their speed controllable, keeping vigilant and taking no alcohol. It is good to see that TV stations are advising people to drive no more if they are drunk. Many lives were already lost because of mines and unexploded ordnances.
When I came here on December 29, 2010 to launch the construction of the 7 January overpass, I informed you about the need for a study to be conducted on the possibility to build the third overpass at Stoeng Meanjei. As of now there have been six different ideas and designs shown to me. It seems there is a consensus for design and option number six, which will be completed in two phases – building two overpasses and a tunnel at a total cost of 17.77 million USD over an 18 month period; and building a number of extension bridges and two main bridges crossing the canal of Stoeng Meanjei at a total cost of 4.975 million USD over eight month period.
I already gave my approval. What is more important is that the project will have to have cooperation and collaboration from our people so as to resolve impacts with the support of the Ministry of Economy and Finance. Again we will apply the method of wrapping palm sugar with palm leaves. The cost of building this third overpass will be a fund collected from a company that invests in a development project at Jroy Jangvar. The project was before offered to Sunway Company from Malaysia. While the company could not implement it, the new company is taking over.
I thank HE Pung Kheav Se, Chairman of the Association of Banks in Cambodia and President and CEO of Canadia Bank, and Mayor of Phnom Penh, HE Kep Chuktema, for proposing policies to resolve the impacts from the project for people living in the area. As for people who have some land here for cultivation, they will receive a monthly pay of 500,000 Riel for a period of two years as their first choice. Let me clarify that no one is allowed to own land in this zone. The land belongs to the state. The second choice is they will choose a shop in the market. So, in addition to owning a new house, people could choose to get a compensation of 500,000 Riel per month or a shop in the market.
It was in 1994/95, HE Sun Chanthol may still remember, when Samdech Krom Preah (Norodom Ranaridh) approved the deal of building a satellite city at Jroy Jangvar. Now that a new company has taken over in the project of building the satellite city, it will build us the third overpass at Stoeng Meanjei crossing and canal. The company also has an obligation to build a new 27 million USD bridge to link Phnom Penh from the western side to the satellite city on the eastern side of Tonle Sap River.
After the third overpass taking shape, let’s all wait and see where the fourth one will be. We have a master plan that was co-studied and assisted by France and JICA. In a few days, if thing goes according to plan, Samdech Me, the Heroic Queen Mother, will travel on the overpass at Kbal Thnol to the district of Sa Ang of Kandal province for the Cambodian Red Cross ceremony to offer kits to our calamity affected people./.