My Impression from Melbourne
From 7 August to 10 September 2011, I got the opportunity to go to Australia to participate in a short course on “Integrated Water Resource Management”, organized by Chisholm Institute in cooperation with Earth Systems and Entura/Hydro Tasmania. It was sponsored by AusAID. 20 Cambodians from government’s ministries, Cambodian National Mekong Committee, Tonle Sap Authority, research institutes, NGOs etc. joined the trip. We went to visit many institutions which deal with water and to see several places, but most of our time we spent to work and visit line agencies in Melbourne. It was my first visit to Australia and Melbourne. Everything was new to me. It was my goal to visit Australia one day. Dream comes true.
Besides working hours, I spent my time visiting the city by walking, using trams and bus. I did my regular physical exercise at Fitzroy gardens, in the middle of the city and just seven hundred meter from my hotel, either in the early morning or in the late afternoon when finishing our work. It is a large and very beautiful park which we lack in Phnom Penh. We stayed at Quest Lonsdales 43.
I was told that 3 million people living in Melbourne, out of 6 million inhabitants of the State of Victoria. It is a big city, but it is very well organized, structured and designed. The city has big parks, big trees, flowers gardens, conserved wetland area, beautiful lake, where environment is protected. Wild birds live peacefully next to people and apartments. High-rises are also landmark of this city. Queen Victoria market and old city center, China town, monuments, museums enrich the life of this city.
In the inner city area, there are many young students; many Asians, Chinese, Vietnamese, Indians; walking or running to catch classes which male it a lively city. I have not seen much old people like in the Western cities in Europe. Chinese emigrants came to Melbourne already in the mid of nineteenth century during the gold rush period and have since then settled there. Plenty of restaurants offering Chinese, Indian, Malaysian, Singaporean, Thai, Vietnamese, Arabian or even Khmer cuisine are easy to be found throughout the city. Though, it is a three million city, I have not seen any traffic jams since Melbourne has very good public transport system with bus, tram, metro, trains etc. People mostly respect the traffic law and respect each other while travelling. However, it is an expensive city and Australia is the most expensive country I have ever visited. A canned beer in a normal restaurant would cost about 7-10 A$. In Germany it would cost around 3 Euro.
Reflecting back to Phnom Penh, it is sad to see that natural lakes are filled in to build apartments. Parks or open spaces are sold to private developers to build what they want. Government’s ministries were “relocated” or sold from prime location to low price suburb. No really master plan exists. Evictions happened in many parts of the city prime area to get land sold at high price to private investor. Protests of the victims, civil society organizations, donors and the World Bank against eviction go in vain. Our government officials, especially those in power and decision makers could have learnt and act responsibly. They travel around the world and have seen what other cities look like. Why couldn’t they design and develop a beautiful city for all to live in? The Prime Minister once said:”It is better to have uncontrolled development than uncontrolled destruction”. But, why he could not choose “controlled development”. He has all the power to implement and enforce controlled development. All the people will have great benefits from this wise policy direction.