Can Cambodia Adapt to a Changing World?
By Sam Campbell, Economics Today
Impoverished, low-lying and at the mercies of flood and drought, few places are more susceptible to the devastating effects of climate change than Cambodia.
The dangers are difficult to overstate: the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimates that a 40cm change in sea level rise will displace as many as 55 million people by 2080 in South Asia. In the short-term, the UNDP Human Development report estimates that developing countries will need around US$86 billion each year for climate change adaptation by 2015.
The Cambodian government is apparently aware of the danger, noting that, “As an essentially agrarian country, the Kingdom of Cambodia is highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change” in their National Adaptation Program for Action (NAPA), a plan to help mitigate the effects of climate change.
Considering that UN Framework Convention on Climate change stated that adaptation had hardly even been considered in Cambodia as recently as two or three years ago, even this acknowledgement is an achievement. But with floods, droughts, windstorms, high tides, salt water intrusions and malaria outbreaks set to increase in both frequency and duration, and the additional threats of underground water salinization and seawater intrusion in coastal areas, doubts over the kingdom’s ability to adapt linger.
Indonesian Ambassador to Cambodia Ngurah Swajaya told the 5th Asia Economic Forum Apr 7 about the increasingly destructive effects of climate change for Indonesia. “A study undertaken by Indonesia’s Meteorological bureau indicates that in 16 cities in Indonesia … had experienced more than one degree temperature increase in the past 10 years. The increase of one degree in the period of 10 years is disturbing. This changes the weather pattern. It shortened the rain season to only 5 months and lengthened the dry season and drought. The rainy season usually … [now causes] severe floods.” Even as cities flood, Ngurah Swajaya said, only 80 percent of the total demand for fresh water can be met during the rainy season, and a mere 20 percent during the dry season.