Cambodia is changing fast. Over the past decade, the capital city, Phnom Penh has expanded exponentially: its bodies of water have been filled in and green spaces diminished. Rural to urban migration has changed the shape of the countryside. Great shifts are under way and information has dated quickly as times change.
It was this realisation that led a team of open data enthusiasts to compile a comprehensive guide to Cambodia’s development. Their new book, Atlas of Cambodia, covers a broad range of fields: from how the anticipated effects of climate change vary from province to province to Phnom Penh’s rapid urbanisation.
The 178-page atlas, published by Save Cambodia’s Wildlife (SCW) and Open Development Cambodia (ODC), a website which aggregates economic and environmental information, features 69 maps, including those shown below, which visualise the latest data.
The information will be available online as well as in print. A Khmer-language video covering climate change and biodiversity was also developed. The book is on sale at Monument Books.
National vulnerability to climate change
At CLIMATE change talks in Warsaw late last year, the Philippine delegate, waiting for news in the aftermath of the devastation of Typhoon Haiyan, broke down in tears. “We can fix this. We can stop this madness. Right now, right here,” he is reported to have said. While some scientists still say individual natural disasters can’t necessarily be linked to the phenomenon, climate change is expected to impact the region. Temperatures in Southeast Asia are expected to rise by 2.5 per cent by 2080.
Both extremely hot and extremely cold days are expected to become more frequent.
While Cambodia should be spared the more extreme weather events occurring elsewhere in the region, climate change is expected to have serious consequences for the country. Sea-level rise has the potential to badly impact the coastline and parts of the Mekong River flood plain and Tonle Sap ecosystems, Atlas of Cambodia explains.
Agriculture and fisheries are major parts of the economy, and depend on natural rainfall and the annual flooding patterns of the Mekong River and Tonle Sap lake, so both the economy and food supply could be impacted by small changes in
Rural Cambodians are at the highest risk, due to their lower ability to adapt associated with poverty, according to the book.
Seven provinces in Cambodia are among the 50 most vulnerable regions to climate change out of 590 in Southeast Asia. Southern provinces are more inclined to flood. Takeo is vulnerable as it is close to the Mekong river delta.
According to a 2009 report from the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, as published in Atlas of Cambodia, 22.5 per cent of married women have been subject to physical, sexual or psychological domestic violence. Up to 89 per cent have not reported it, the same study showed. The barchart in the book shows the different types of domestic violence against women reported by village chiefs in 2010. Fewer cases were reported in mountainous and coastal areas than in the urban and low-land regions.
The young in Cambodia are far more likely to read than the old: 91.5 per cent of those aged 15 to 24 were literate in 2011, according to figures published in Atlas of Cambodia. This figure is expected to rise to 97 per cent by 2015. For the whole population, the figure in 2011 was just below 80 per cent. The northeast provinces like Ratanakkiri have the country’s highest proportion of ethnic minorities, who may not speak Khmer; those languages they do speak may not have a written tradition. Schoolchildren may have to travel far to get to school.
This map from Atlas of Cambodia demonstrates the domestic movement of the population from lowland rice-growing regions where land is growing scarce to either urban centres or upland regions where land might be available. Rural to urban migration has mostly been to Phnom Penh. Cambodia is changing to a mostly landless society.
Phnom Penh in 2003 versus 2013
The capital has increased hugely in the past decade. These maps, published by Save Cambodia’s Wildlife and Open Development Cambodia, and obtained from satellite images, show the decrease in lakes, canals, rivers and green spaces in the city.
The effect of their removal has reportedly been increased flooding, as water bodies and parks served an important drainage function. Phnom Penh in 2003 can be seen on the left, with the image 10 years later on the right.