Monday, June 22, 2009

Is Cambodia the future shelter for Vietnamese climate exiles?

Ka-Set (Cambodia): Will Cambodia collapse under the weight of thousands of starving Vietnamese exiles, fleeing fields devastated by roaring waves?...If the scenario of a sudden arrival in mass of Vietnamese migrants on the Khmer soil seems unlikely today, several recent reports point out the major environmental risks which people in the Mekong Delta may be faced with in the forthcoming decades. A new challenge for the two nations after a long common history of much turmoil.

Predicting the future with maps, that is what researchers from the United Nations University, the NGO Care International and Columbia University have endeavoured to do in a report published in May 2009, entitled “In Search of Shelter: Mapping the Effects of Climate Change on Human Migration and Displacement”. Supported by documents and statistics, the three authors attempt to understand and explain “how environmental shocks and stresses, especially those related to climate change, can push people to leave their homes in search of ‘greener pastures’ … or just to survive

….The fast melting of the glaciers of the Tibetan plateau, the authors stress, will likely provoke important flooding, mainly downstream first, that is in the Mekong Delta, Vietnam and Cambodia. In a second time, in addition to the disastrous floods, there may be the consequences of the construction of new hydropower dams upstream - which will temporarily benefit from important flows but may tend, with time, to deprive inhabitants downstream of diminishing hydraulic resources. A tragedy that is already unfolding, the report underlines.

…The most pessimistic predictions therefore offer at least one interest: that of prompting governments of concerned countries to react in order to anticipate and adapt – if not to fight on their own against climate change. Thus, Vietnamese authorities have decided to set up a programme aimed at controlling population movements related to the new environmental phenomena, entitled “Vietnam Disaster Prevention”, which consists in relocating families living in vulnerable areas…..

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