The public spaces in Phnom Penh aim to provide more than just an escape from the traffic and pollution of a growing Asian capital city, with activities for a healthy mind and body. As the country undergoes rapid urbanization, new developments are threatening the open and recreational spaces of the city that are vital to healthy living for the city’s residents. Some parks and playgrounds in Phnom Penh aim to promote psychological well being and to fulfill a more playful and less-stressful environment for raising children.
Children today have not experienced the trauma of the previous generation during the reign of the Khmer Rouge, but they can still absorb the stress from their families and surrounding environment. Due to their past experience, parents may be overprotective; allowing children to play freely is still difficult. Among the limited number of public parks in the city, one organization supporting mental health built a public park to address with healthy lifestyles for children. It is designed to encourage self-confidence and self-reliance for all ages through various activities, all run by local volunteers.
Living next to green spaces and interacting with nature has proven good for mental and physical well being, and should be a primary component in city planning. For kids in the city of Phnom Penh, there are not many public options for playgrounds, especially ones that act as therapy, and the prospects are thinning as future developments are eating away at open spaces.
One of the city’s most famous architects is concerned about the city selling off land to foreign private interests. Green spaces that Vann Molyvann designed decades ago have since been divided and developed into towering buildings. This is happening throughout the city, as it accommodates the growing population with more buildings and infrastructure. Whether parks incorporate therapeutic activities or not, healthy lifestyles should be considered in the city’s growth, and having public playgrounds and green spaces will provide access for all families and income levels.
For a city that is still recovering from a violent past, access to nature and leisure activities can contribute to a healthier way of life and outlet for dealing with stress, but within a poorer country it can be difficult to prioritize public works and city beautification.
How would you suggest motivating the city to preserve existing and construct more public green spaces? How does your city approach open space preservation?
Credits: Images by Tara Whelan. Data linked to sources.