The new normal: facing climate change

Source: Phnom Penh Post,

 

Last year’s drought caused a nationwide crisis, with harvests ruined, forest fires raging and many rural families struggling to feed themselves. As experts take stock of the impact, news of another potential El Niño raises a question: Is Cambodia prepared for the next drought?

For Cambodia, the El Niño that began in 2015 hit hard, causing a two-year drought that jeopardised the health, food security and finances of millions of people.

According to the National Committee for Disaster Management (NCDM), some 2.5 million people across 18 provinces were severely impacted by May of last year, and the province among the hardest hit was Banteay Meanchey, in the northwest of the country.

But while a wet rainy season that arrived in June alleviated the situation nationally, conditions in parts of the province suggest that this year’s rainy season may not have been enough to get them through the year. Already, in O’Chhrou district’s O’Beichoan commune, six villages have experienced water shortages, beginning last week.

“There are about 2,000 families now buying water, and the water prices are starting to increase,” said O’Beichoan commune chief Soung Meurng.

“Currently they have no water to use for cooking, washing clothes, or bathing,” he said, adding that farmers in the commune will forgo planting crops for the third year straight. “We don’t care about the crops yet. We think only to support the people and the livestock.”

Meurng says provincial authorities have promised his commune a 5,000-liter truck to deliver water, but so far he hasn’t “seen it yet”. “Our commune is the worst hit one among the district,” he said.

What Meurng is grappling with at the moment could be a sign of what’s to come for much of the country. Although spurred by El Niño, last year’s drought may have been a sign of dry conditions to come – possibly sooner than expected. Read more...

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