Cambodia ranked 110 on a list of 133 countries graded on environmental factors affecting health such as drinking water, sanitation and air quality, according to research conducted by Columbia and Yale universities in the US.
The 2006 Environmental Performance Index—officially released on Thursday at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland—evaluated countries based on the UN Millennium Development Goals.
Cambodia was squeezed between Liberia, ranked at 109, and Sierra Leone, ranked 111, on the index, which was researched in cooperation with the World Economic Forum and the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission.
“Cambodia’s environmental health indicators are indeed far below the average for the East Asia region—they are the lowest in the entire region,” said Marc Levy, associate director of the Center for International Earth Science Information Network at Columbia University. “They are also far below average for countries of similar per-capita income levels,” he said.
According to the 2006 Index, the Cambodian population has the poorest access to drinking water and adequate sanitation in the region. Indoor air pollution was found to be extremely high due to widespread burning of solid fuels without adequate ventilation, Levy said.
“Cambodia has one of the lowest levels of energy use per GDP in the entire world. However, this is not a function of energy policy, but rather a function of low levels of economic development,” he added.
Health Minister Nuth Sokhom said on Sunday that his ministry is working with the Industry and Rural Development ministries on water issues to reduce health hazards.
The National Health Action Plan developed by the government and health organizations address environmental health issues, such as water supply and sanitation, said Nasir Hassan, environmental health advisor to the World Health Organization in Phnom Penh.
However, he added, “there are a lot of things to be done in the country to improve environmental health.”