Friday, April 11, 2014

Droughts, flooding, disease: the reality of a Cambodia that has been hit by climate change

Emily Wight in the Phnom Penh Post: Disruption of typical weather patterns. Scorching drought interrupted by erratic rainfall. Water shortages and then, suddenly, a deluge of flooding. Poor crop yields; an increase in food prices; dreadful hunger. This is the future Cambodia is facing as climate change takes its toll – and farmers are already feeling the effects, experts have warned.

...Cambodia, where 90 per cent of the country’s poor live in rural areas, according to the World Bank’s latest figures, will be among the hardest hit. ... Chhinh Nyda is a lecturer in environmental studies at the Royal University of Phnom Penh, where he specialises in drought vulnerability in rural Cambodia. He wrote in an email earlier this week that due to climate change, the rainy periods are going to be shorter, and more rainfall will be concentrated during the rainy period.

He added that there will be more rainfall in late July and September, and that August will see a longer, drier period. There will then be less rainfall in late November, he added, saying: “Farmers who depend on rain-fed farming to grow their crops are going to face more disasters, especially floods and drought.”

Rice production is expected to decline, leading to the migration of farmers to seek work in urban areas. Increased pressure will be put on urban infrastructure; diseases such diarrhoea, dengue fever and malaria will be more common with increased flooding; food prices will escalate; malnutrition will be rife.

Socheath Sou, co-ordinator at the Cambodia Climate Change Network (CCCN), a membership organisation for groups and individuals with an interest in the field, said that his members have reported a 30 per cent decline in rice yields over the past 10 years. This has led to a rise in people migrating to the capital to look for work. “Phnom Penh is really crowded now compared to 10 years ago. And that causes problems for the city: health problems, infrastructure problems, education problems, security, safety,” he said....

Rice farming in Cambodia, shot by International Rice Research Institute, Wikimedia Commons via Flickr, under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license

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