Urban Expansion in Cambodia

January 26, 2015

New World Bank data compiled through satellite imagery and geospatial mapping provides new understanding of East Asia’s accelerating urbanization. The new analysis provides vital data at a time when much of the region’s infrastructure is getting built as part of a physical and social transformation in East Asia.

According to the World Bank report titled East Asia’s Changing Urban Landscape: Measuring a Decade of Spatial Growth, Cambodia has a very small amount of urban area and urban population. Phnom Penh, with over one million people, remains the only major urban area in the country.

Country findings

  • Cambodia has the fourth-smallest amount of urban land among the countries studied (after the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Papua New Guinea, and Timor-Leste).
  • The amount of urban area grew from 110 square kilometers in 2000 to 160 in 2010. Only 0.1% of its total land mass was urban, the lowest proportion in East Asia after Lao PDR, Mongolia, and Papua New Guinea.
  • Although the absolute amount of new built-up area was small, the rate of urban spatial expansion was the second fastest after Lao PDR: 4.3% a year, on average.
  • Cambodia also has among the smallest but fastest-growing urban populations, growing at 4.4% a year from 920,000 people to 1.4 million between 2000 and 2010.
  • Cambodia shares many urban characteristics with its neighbor Lao PDR, but has a much higher average urban population density: 8,600 people per square kilometer in Cambodia in 2010, in contrast to 3,200 in Lao PDR.
  • The two other settlements in Cambodia sometimes considered cities are Baat Dambang and Siem Reap, though the urban populations of both were less than 100,000 people in 2010.
  • Siem Reap doubled in size and tripled in population between 2000 and 2010.