Cambodia at a Glance
Population: 17.3 Million (2021)
Major Threats: Floods, Thunderstorms, Social issues (Human Trafficking, Violence, Corruption)
Populations Affected: Rural and Urban Communities
Locations Affected: Tbong Khmum, Sihanoukville, Battambang, Kampong Chhnang, Pursat, Ratanakkiri, Preah Vihear, Siem Reap, Koh Kong, Kampot, Kampong Thom, Modulkiri
Industries Affected: Agriculture, Tourism, Manufacturing
Compounding Issues: WASH, Livelihoods, Poverty, Education, Nutrition, Deforestation, and Water Resources
World Risk Index Ranking: 15
Global Climate Risk Index: 84 (2021)
Cambodia, a small yet highly sought-after destination in Southeast Asia, is renowned for its captivating blend of history, rich culture, and stunning natural landscapes. The country boasts an incredible biodiversity that adds to its allure. However, beneath this beauty lie poignant challenges stemming from a history marked by war, internal conflicts, and political turmoil, spanning from the 1970s conflict to discrimination and exploitation of ethnic groups.
Tragically, many of Cambodia’s minority ethnic groups continue to face barriers to accessing essential services such as healthcare, education, and employment, perpetuating poverty within these communities. The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated these issues, placing immense strain on Cambodia’s healthcare system and leading to a rise in poverty levels during multiple lockdowns.
Major Threats and Economy
Cambodia is recognized as a rapidly growing economy, with a significant focus on agriculture, textiles, garments, and a thriving tourism industry that attracts international visitors, bolstering foreign investment and trade. However, it also faces the challenge of being one of Asia’s least developed countries, primarily due to its heavy reliance on tourism and garment manufacturing, both of which were adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Prior to the pandemic’s economic impact, Cambodia grappled with several persistent issues deserving of attention, including poverty, corruption, and human rights concerns. These issues have gained international prominence in recent years, particularly regarding media workers who have experienced harassment, abuse, and even violence.
Climate Change Impacts
Cambodians have already begun experiencing rising temperatures and shifting weather patterns. The 2022 floods displaced thousands of Cambodians and had a significant impact on public facilities, including schools. Climate change has made weather patterns less predictable, posing challenges for farmers who once relied on a predictable rainfall cycle. Increasingly intense droughts have led to lower harvests, affecting residents’ food security and exacerbating poverty.
Agriculture plays a pivotal role in Cambodia’s economy, while the garment manufacturing sector also faces repeated challenges from climate-related disasters, occurring several times a year.
Flooding is a typical occurrence during Cambodia’s wet season, contributing to soil fertility. However, when severe, flooding can lead to significant concerns, causing damage to public facilities and loss of property for residents. The most vulnerable communities to flooding are typically those situated near the Mekong River and Tonle Sap.
Floods in Cambodia have far-reaching impacts, affecting numerous sectors including education, healthcare facilities, infrastructure, agriculture, livelihoods, fisheries, and water irrigation. Over the past decade, economic losses attributed to flooding have exceeded US$355 million, with casualties numbering as high as 340. Given the heightened alert regarding global warming, flood events are placing residents at an increased risk today.
Adaptation and Local Context
Climate change adaptation is now a paramount concern for the Cambodian government, and it is an integral part of the Rectangle Strategic Phase II, which encompasses climate change mapping efforts conducted across Southeast Asia. Cambodia is identified as one of the countries most susceptible to the impacts of climate change due to its low adaptive capacity, limited knowledge, and human resources, as well as a lack of up-to-date climate information and strategies.
In response to the findings from this mapping initiative, the Royal Government of Cambodia has initiated the Cambodia Climate Change Strategic Plan. This plan represents a crucial step in the nation’s policy response to tackle climate change issues and offers guidance for fostering climate-resilient development, drawing from international best practices.
Given Cambodia’s limited capacity to address climate change challenges and its constrained financial resources, it is imperative to allocate a larger budget towards mitigating climate change impacts and fostering the resilience of communities and ecosystems. Investments should align with the Cambodia Climate Change Strategic Plan (CCCSP) to ensure effective outcomes that benefit the community.
Cambodian officials have engaged in a longstanding partnership with the UN, particularly in the agricultural sector, which contributes up to 20 percent of the country’s economy. This collaboration focuses on addressing the adverse effects of rising temperatures, which have a significant impact on farmers who must adapt to the changing conditions.
Opportunities and Recommendations to International Donors
Cambodia needs to secure more funding in several vital sectors as one of the least developed countries. One critical issue was climate-related disasters to reduce the risks to its communities. Some area for international donors that might support to be considered are as follow :
- Infrastructure and Construction Works
- Resilient Water Irrigation Systems
- Adaptation Knowledge, Research, and Technology
- Hydropower Energy
- Health, Hygiene, and Sanitation
- Community Economic Empowerment
- Forest Rehabilitation and Environmental Protection