Water Supply of Phnom Penh: A Most Remarkable Tranformation

A major problem facing the water profession is the absence of comprehensive, independent, reliable and objective analyses of urban water management systems of the developing world. What is mostly available at present are analyses carried out by the staff members of the utility themselves, or by international funding institutions that have provided funds to the utilities for the construction, rehabilitation and/or strengthening.

Because of lack of such comprehensive analyses, it has been difficult even to identify
which are the models of urban water management that are working well for a reasonable period of time, and what lessons other urban centres of developing countries, which are planning to improve their performance, can learn from such experiences. Based on their boundary conditions and specificities of good models analysed, other urban centres can decide upon their potential replicability, albeit with appropriate modifications to suit their own special conditions. In our view, no one single model of urban water management will be suitable for all developing countries. Developing countries are not homogenous, and are at different stages of economic, social, legal and institutional development. In addition, at least in terms of water supply, climatic conditions may vary quite significantly from one city to another, even within a single medium-to-large size country, and the availability of water infrastructure is seldom similar. Under these conditions, there is no question that one size does not fit all, and solution-in-search-of-a-problem approach will mostly fail, as has been the experience in throughout history.

The present case study of Phnom Penh is a first attempt to analyse an urban water supply system in considerable depth.

Asit K. Biswas and Cecilia Tortajada, 2009, “Water Supply of Phnom Penh: A Most Remarkable Tranformation, Third World Centre for Water Management, Research Report.

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