2007 Survey Shows Awareness, Fear Over Changing Climate

With hotter weather, scarcer water and seasons seeming to turn at the wrong time, Cambodians feel that the climate is changing, according to a survey released Friday by the NGO Geres.

However the poll, conducted two years ago among 425 people in Phnom Penh as well as Kampot, Battambang, Kompong Chhnang and Kratie provinces, found that the causes and effects of climate change remain mysterious even to those, such as farmers, who are most vulnerable to its effects.

Eighty-five percent of those surveyed believed the climate was changing and 61 percent called themselves “very concerned.” Nearly 40 percent feared increased droughts and disease and 32 percent suggested planting trees to combat the problem. However few knew what causes climate change or what effects it will have.

“I think technically people are just aware about temperature rises and rainfall,” said Nop Polin, national coordinator for climate change awareness at Geres. Farmers need accurate climate forecasts to plan how and where they will plant, he added.

Though conducted in 2007, data compilation in the survey was hindered by the departure of a staff member, delaying its release until this year, Nop Polin said.

Seth Vannareth, director of meteorology at the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology, said Friday that while climate change remained a concern globally, evidence was currently inconclusive as to whether Cambodia has yet suffered its effects.

“At the moment, I cannot say that Cambodia is impacted by climate change,” she said, preferring to say Cambodia was experiencing “climate variability,” as hotter-than-usual temperatures had still not yet exceeded Cambodia’s absolute maximum over the last half century of 42 degrees.

A survey released in February by the Economy and Environment Program for Southeast Asia identified Cambodia, and particularly Mondolkiri, Ratanakkiri, Kompong Speu and Preah Vihear provinces as among the areas in the region most vulnerable to flooding, drought, and other hazards related to global warming.

Yin Kimsean, secretary of state at the Environment Ministry, said Friday that under the World Bank-funded Cambodia Environment and Protected Areas Management Project, which supports the conservation of Virachey National Park in Ratanakkiri province, the ministry was helping to teach the public about global warming.

“We support the activities to work on climate change, to minimize its impact,” he said.


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