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1        Background

1.1    Political

The Political environment of Cambodia, which was once unstable, but now somewhat improving, affected the development of the MFB Conceptual Design in numerous ways.

1.1.1   Increasing Use of Own Resources

The argument that Cambodia’s natural resources, particularly it’s valuable timber, is being exploited by the likes of Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore and Australia (Asia Sentinel, 2007), predominantly because Cambodia cannot utilize its resources is an interesting one.  As a result, the MFB attempts to use, still on a basis of need, Cambodia’s own resource industry, to help improve its own civil infrastructure.  As the old saying goes:

“The person who can best help you – is yourself”

Despite deforestation will remain a Cambodian plague (Butler, 2005), the utilization of Cambodia’s resources by their own people for their own use, will increase demand for the same output supply, thus reducing price, as shown in Figure 2.1.


Figure
2.1: For the same Supply curve, if the Demand of Cambodian wood increases,
 the price will increase, thus deterring “exploit” pricing of Cambodian wood.

1.1.2   Dealing with Misappropriation

Because of the some-what corrupted Political climate of Cambodia (BBC Asia-Pacific News, 2006), aid from the United States is sometimes being misappropriated into private accounts (High Beam Research, 2005).  This is a real concern to charitable civil engineering projects such as the MFB, because the primary source of funding for these projects are international aid funds.  As a result, MFB was not only built using mostly local Cambodia materials, but also materials that needed to be exported (such as steel brackets), were manufactured in such a character, as so to make it almost impossible to misappropriate.

1.2    Economic

1.2.1   Access to Debt Finance

In terms of financing, in the past ten years, because Cambodia’s economic growth rate has been reasonably strong, as shown in Table 2.1, with its GDP averaging 6.9% between the years of 1994 and 2004 (Assean Affairs, 2009), obtaining financing from debt (rather than equity) will become increasing easy.  Despite the MFB’s lead in price (hyper-)competitiveness and labor efficiency, because of the strong reliance on labor and natural resources, as the Cambodian economy continues to strengthen, debt financing will become essential.  Note however, the Return-on-Investment (Frontier Investments and Development Partners, 2008) should eventually well offset the initial investment, particularly in terms of civil usability (and thus taxes as a result).
Table 2.1: NIS Statistical Year Book 2005, CDHS 2000, State of the Environment Report 2004

1.2.2   Benefits to Industry

The MFB introduction would come in perfect timing, particularly as the once-flourishing agricultural, fishery, and forestry industry of Cambodia begins to deplete (IPS Inter Press, 2008).  Unfortunately, as the World Climate changes, and continues to change, this gentle erosion of Cambodia’s traditional industries is looking unlikely to impede.  Fortunately, because of International Free Trade Agreements (Bilaterals, 2008), Cambodia can in some ways move away from primary industries (natural resources) to secondary (manufacturing and construction) and even tertiary (services) industries.  Interesting to observe is the production of the MFB in itself is classed as the much-heralded secondary and tertiary industry production, which the West has previously dominated (Chen, 2001).  Furthermore, by inference, civil infrastructure development will increase access to labor, which will increase labor supply to already-huge export industries such as textiles, garments, and footwear (Cambodia Garment Industry, 2006), which on a larger scale could inflate GDP.

Furthermore, the MFB supports well the Tourism industry, already reaching two million per annum (China Post, 2008), by providing foreign travelers with, despite a unique experience, one that is more “close to home” or free, than merely travel-by-boat.

1.2.3   Benefits to Community

Increased public infrastructure also means reduced barriers of entry, whether that be in relation to schooling, or work-related.  In other words, because a boat would be a private possession, person(s) who cannot afford a boat will be limited in their travelling ability.  However, the introduction of public transport (the MFB) would mean that person(s) who cannot afford a boat would not be limited in the same way as if public transport were not present.

In terms of education, the MFB Training Sessions will also provide workforce with invaluable skills and working culture, which will greatly benefit the community, providing workers with hands-on experience that they can use for their own private enterprises.

1.3    Social

1.3.1   “Free Lunch”

One of the benefits for some of working for some big corporations in the West is whether the employment package includes a “free lunch” (Google Inc, 2009).  Similarly, in Cambodia, the United Nations has introduced a “Food for Work” program (Friends of the World Food Program, 2009) that encourages low-skilled laborers to work for healthy and yummy food.  After all, even Westerners long for a taste of Khmer cuisine – fermented fish, sticky rice, curry dishes (ifood.tv, 2009).

1.3.2   Population Growth

As the population of the Tonle Sap River grows, the MFB needs to extend, take greater capacities, and deal with network economics.  The MFB took into consideration all these factors, and in many respects, delegated much of the planning roles to dedicated “Town Planners” who would know the demand for the MFB more than Westerners’’ from a different cultural and geographical context would.

Nevertheless, the MFB components were chosen for strength-to-cost ratio and durability, to account for the expanding Cambodian population.

Even at the current population of fourteen million people (CIA, 2008), and a growth forecast of nineteen million by 2020 (JICA, 2007), the MFB was designed and simulated based on:

v  Individual /Tourist use (one to seven person)

v  Household use (4.1 people (Population Reference Bureau, 2003))

v  Community use (estimation of between fifty to five hundred families)

v  School use (estimation of fifty to five thousand pupils)

Another consideration is average population density, which is around 67 people per square kilometer (PopulStat, 2004).  This is compared with say 90.40 people per square kilometer in the State of California (United States Census Bureau, 2006).  Increasing population density will only mean increased economies of scale of production (Sullivan, 2007).

1.3.2.1  Elderly Population

As the elderly population increases faster than other market segmentations (United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, 2007), Cambodia must find ways to provide health care facilities and housing to improve their wellbeing.  Because the MFB decreases barriers to entry (as discussed in 2.2.3), it increases access (as well as presence) of health facilities.

1.3.3   Culture

In designing the MFB, special considerations were made into cultural elements of Cambodia that were key to the Country; such as music, dance, and the arts (Encyclopedia Britannica, 1998).  Because of decreased barriers to entry, there is increased access to celebrations and festivals that take place throughout the year.  Particularly in areas of Cambodia with low income per capita, this will revitalize dying cultural industries.

1.4    Technological

As an engineering design solution, the technological environment of Cambodia was critical to the assessment of materials, as well as tools and labor knowledge, which were available.  The MFB successfully utilizes natural resources derived from within Cambodia, with the only element that needs to be imported being the steel bracket.

1.5    Legal

Conducting business in Cambodia means complying with Cambodian labor law (iFrance, 1997).

Furthermore, because there are likely to be no laws or regulations on the dimensions of walkways and length of handrails, in the capacity of a professional engineer, it is a vital role that the highest level of safety is attained.  Thus incorporating the United States standards of construction, a safe ethical design can be achieved.

Handrails in United States are required (Eng-Tips, 2003) to be made of steel tubing or timber with a minimum diameter of 40mm with support posts to be maximally spaced at 1.8 meters.  United States standards consider stainless steel wire (minimum diameter of 3.2mm) below the handrails to be at a maximum of 100mm apart. However, in this design, it is necessary to keep cost low and therefore rope will be used for the support rails below the main handrail.

Walkways in the United States are required (Worldwide Cleaning Industry Association, 2009) to be at least 120 centimeters wide (two feet per person, for a walkway that allows for a two-way lane).

1.6    Environmental

1.6.1   Climate Weather

Cambodia, in particular the Tonle Sap region, goes through annual monsoonal cycles (Cambodia Travel Guides, 2009), resulting in alternative wet and dry seasons, thus rising and falling water levels.  Over the June to October period, the Tonle Sap Lake increases by five times in land coverage with respect to the dry season and gains a depth of up to ten meters (GIS Development, 1998).  This rapid extension of the Lake’s land coverage is a direct result of the Tonle Sap’s flat landscape (Australian National University, 2008).

Due to this annual cycle, which results in adversely different landscapes, the design of the MFB was designed to be compatible with the Cambodian lifestyle throughout the seasonal changes, of both the wet and dry seasons.

For instance, a series of small detachable bridging sections were employed in preference to a large fixed bridging unit.  This accommodates with portability and extendibility during the wet season in areas where most required, as well usability throughout the dry season in areas still covered by water.

1        Introduction

Cambodia is located across the Pacific Ocean from the West Coast of the United States of America, a bit further than Australia, as shown in Figure 1.1.  It is the successor of the once powerful Hindu/Buddhist Khmer Empire between the 11th and 14th centuries (The Phnom Penh Post, 2009), but Christianity is rapidly expanding and shaping culture (Back to Jerusalem, 2006).

 

Figure 1.1: This is where Cambodia is located in
context of the World (University of Texas, 2009)

The Tonle Sap, Cambodian for “Large Freshwater River” (Geotimes, 2007), or “Great Lake” (Articles Base, 2009), is located in central Cambodia, and expands and contracts depending on the time of the year, as shown in Figure 1.2.

 

Figure 1.2: This is where the Tonle Sap is located in context
of Cambodia (Helsinki University of Technology, 2006)

Because the Tonle Sap region is susceptible to rising water levels (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2001), Cambodians mostly live in stilted (The Phnom Penh Post, 2009) or floating houses (Angkor Travel, 2009), predominantly travelling by boat.  Figure 1.3 shows a modern-day example of a stilted house.

 

Figure 1.3: An example of a stilted house, from Disney’s Bridge to Terrabithia

Unfortunately, travelling in this manner restricts movement, and ultimately, geographical freedom.  A modern-day equivalent would be requiring all Beverly Hills residents to use a vehicle when navigating the roadways, rather than allowing residents to walk freely through the roads.  Obviously, requiring so would be somewhat limiting.  The fundamental idea of a bridge was proposed to allow Cambodians to freely walk their “land”, or more semantically correct, freely “walk on water”.

As shown in Figure 1.4 however, even a Beverly Hills road is truly complex, everything from construction (Lay, 1992) to routing (Lexico Publishing Group, 2007) to transport economics (Nobel Foundation, 2000).  It truly astonishing to see just how many Westerners take their roads and other civil infrastructure for granted.

 

Figure 1.4: A Beverly Hills road is complex in way of both design and construction.

Furthermore, unlike much of the Western World (including Venice in Europe), Cambodia faces a unique problem in relation to continuously changing water levels that differ vastly depending on season and time of year (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2001).  In other words, the distinctive question that applied to Cambodia was what way was there to create a bridge that firstly, could stay stationary despite it was a large distance away from land; and secondly, could adjust for changing water levels.

The only solution was the Modular Floating Bridge (herein referred to as the “MFB”), which in its preliminary level has previously been used in the United States and around the World in defense, usually referred to as “pontoon bridges” (Brook, 1998).  The MFB team’s task was ultimately transposing this Western idea to suit the Eastern environment that the Tonle Sap finds itself.

1.1    SWOT Analysis

The Strengths of Cambodia lies in the public perception it needs help, thus attracts attention from various agencies (Engineers Without Borders UK, 2004).  Although this is counteracted by lack of access to capital (World Vision Singapore, 2007), it means that the MFB project has at least some start-up capital.

The Weaknesses of Cambodia lies in its inability to access capital, due to its bad credit rating (although slowly improving) (Monster’s and Critic’s, 2008), low aggregate country income (Bharat Book Bureau, 2005), and public perception (World Federation of Public Health Associations, 2005).  Thus, the MFB budget was severely limited as a result.  As a result, materials were also limited to those that were commonly available within Cambodia, rather than importing materials from overseas that would likely be comparatively more expensive, not even considering freight (ASENA Secretariat, 2009) and tariff charges (World Bank, 2008).

The Opportunities in Cambodia lie in its underdevelopment (Foundations Pour Des Actions Concretes, 2007), thus there are huge opportunities for investment in infrastructure (Government of Cambodia, 2009), which could potentially attract advertising revenue (Beyond Madison Avenue, 2008), as well as business-government partnerships (Asian Development Bank, 2005), and government funding (Economic Institute of Cambodia, 2004).

The Threats to Cambodia are that because the country is slowly gaining momentum, many companies may already be investing in Cambodia (Government of Cambodia, 2009), which could attract huge completion, which could ultimately lead to a price war (Ryckman, 1994).

1.2    Problem Definition

The problem the MFB team faced was creating a civil infrastructure, which would assist persons residing in the Tonle Sap Lake and River in Cambodia.

The proposal outlined is a response to the EWB Challenge, which hopes to help the lives of people living in poverty and disadvantage.  The aim is to respond to the disadvantaged communities living on and around the Tonle Sap Lake and River in Cambodia, by presenting a sustainable human development solution (United Nations Development Program, 2007).  It is truly hoped the Live & Learn and EWB community partners will find the MFB solution innovative and beneficial for new trials and pilot tests.

The various conceptual designs include an integrated design solution, including physical infrastructure, machinery, equipment and appropriate technologies.  The design aims to assist Live & Learn to support the local communities in their own efforts to improve the quality of their lives from a social, environmental and economic perspective.

In short, the aim is to build a bridge that differentiates itself from the current pontoon bridges on the market because of its extendibility.  Whereas current pontoon bridges are built to specific lengths, the MFB idea is to create a pontoon bridge that can be extended and shortened like the aggregating and disaggregating of Lego blocks.