Reduced crop yields, increased water shortages in the dry season and more flooding in the wet season are imminent and inevitable results of climate change in Cambodia, a new UN report has warned.
The report released Tuesday by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicted that the destructive effects of a continued rise in global temperature will be felt several decades earlier than previously thought, with potentially devastating implications for Southeast Asia.
Food resources, biodiversity, water resources, the coastal ecosystem, human health and land degradation in Cambodia will be “highly vulnerable” to the effects of climate change with negative effects projected to accelerate within the next few decades, the IPCC report stated.
Although there was acceptance at the top level of government that Cambodia could be acutely affected by climate change, the country was still unprepared for the scenarios predicted by the IPCC, Environment Ministry official Tin Ponlok said Wednesday.
Describing the forecasts as “credible,” Tin Ponlok—who is the director of the UN-funded Cambodia Climate Change Enabling Activity project—said that although the government was fearful about the effects of climate change, “the capacity of a developing country [like Cambodia] to prepare for it was limited.”
The government was doing as much as it could at present, he said.
The IPCC report warned that changes in seasonality and the volume of water flow in the Me-kong River and other river systems are also likely to occur. This would cause increased flooding risks during the wet season and an increased possibility of water shortage in the dry season.
Such changes are already evident, according to Pich Dun, general secretary for the National Mekong River Commission.
“This year the rainy season started a month late and the water flow has also been different to normal,” he said.
Climate change will likely affect how food production systems perform in the future and will have a direct influence on food security and poverty levels, the IPCC report stated.
It also warned against the disappearance of natural flood plains and advised that more water management interventions, stock management and a more integrated agricultural system were measures that would reduce pressures arising from climate change.
SRP lawmaker Yim Sovann said the government had not only failed to plan for the effects of climate change in the future, but isn’t reducing environmental destruction now.
“We appeal to the government to take special action to protect the environment and prevent pollution and the filling in of flood plains,” he said.
(Additional reporting by Lor Chandara)