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Studying at the University of Tokyo: Taking Inspiration from Japan to Improve the Water Sector in Cambodia (December 2020)

Sinat Phea from Cambodia recently participated in the Japan International Cooperation Agency Development Studies Program (JICA-DSP) at the University of Tokyo. Here, he shares his experience on how he started his relationship with JICA and talks about his learnings at the university, which are mainly focused on the water sector of Japan.


Name: Sinat Phea
Country of Origin: Cambodia
Faculty and University: Master's Program at the Department of Urban Engineering,
Graduate School of Engineering, the University of Tokyo

Research Area/Theme: Water sector development

JICA Course: Water Engineering and Utility Management for Future Leaders(JFY2020)

About Sinat

Sinat is currently Vice Chief of Technical Office at the Department of Technical and Project Management, Ministry of Industry, Science, Technology & Innovation in Cambodia. He is working with a Japanese expert from the Kitakyushu city water bureau as part of his JICA project, which aims for capacity development in conducting site inspections for private water supplies.

Motivation to choose Japan

Previously, Sinat had been a participant of JICA's short-term knowledge co-creation program in Japan, which explored topics like non-revenue water management and leakage control. He was also a member of an important JICA project called "The Project on Strengthening Administrative Capacity of Urban Water Supply in Cambodia."

Sinat's experience on the short-term program impressed him, and he wanted to expand his horizons—this motivated him to apply to the JICA-DSP at the University of Tokyo. He says, "I wanted to understand the technical and management aspects of the water sector in Japan, and ultimately apply my learnings to the public and private water supply in my country."

Another reason for Sinat to choose Japan was to learn about the Japanese people and their culture. "I wanted to contribute towards strengthening the relationship between Cambodia and Japan," says Sinat.

Coming to Tokyo amidst Covid-19


Did Sinat face any challenges in learning at JICA amidst Covid-19? He says the biggest challenge for him was the switch from a physical method of learning to a virtual one. "In general, being a foreign student isn't easy, let alone in a situation like this," he claims. But, what helped him, he adds, was that the university and his professors were extremely approachable, helping him adjust to the new environment. "Prof. Takizawa Satoshi, who is in charge of the program at the Graduate School of Engineering, University of Tokyo, has been immensely helpful in translating the Japanese experience to each participant," Sinat says.

The Miraculous Post-war Journey of Japan

Telling us more about his learnings, specifically the Japanese experience of development, Sinat says, "Japan has been through an incredible post-War journey. It was a pleasure learning about how the country worked on building its industrialized sectors, government policies, the Japanese culture, etc."

Looking at the future

When asked about his future plans, Sinat explains that he has been studying the "Water Distribution Network Management of Private Water Supply in Cambodia" extensively, and these learnings would be helpful in improving his country's water sector. This is exactly what he had planned during his short-term program and it had been his long-time dream has been to do this, in addition to sharing the knowledge that he has gained with his friends and colleagues. "When I return, my objective would be to prepare a robust guideline on pipe network installation and management for the private water supply in my country and share my learnings with as many people as possible. In addition, I would like to bring Cambodia and Japan closer, towards a long-lasting relationship," he concludes.