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Cambodia among the worst hit by disasters

Flooding_in_Phnom_Penhs_Meanchey_district_last_year_-_photo_by_Meng_Kimlong

Flooding in Phnom Penh's Meanchey district in 2011. Photograph: Meng Kimlong/Phnom Penh Post
The flooding that overwhelmed Cambodia last year left it among the countries most severely affected by natural disasters, research published yesterday found.

Surpassed only by neighbouring Thailand, Cambodia ranked second in the Global Climate Risk Index 2013 briefing paper from NGO Germanwatch, which measured the impact of climate change across the globe.

The paper comes as representatives from around the world meet in Doha, Qatar for the COP18 climate-change talks. It urges parties to the conference to insert “new dynamics” to achieve the Kyoto II targets of preventing average global temperatures rising more than two degrees.

“In Cambodia, the extreme rainfall resulted in the worst flooding in decades, killing about 250 people... destroying houses and ruining rice crops,” the paper says.  

Those floods in late 2011 damaged about 10 per cent of the Kingdom’s rice crop.

Prime Minister Hun Sen reported afterwards that, in total, 220,000 hectares of paddy had been affected.

Germanwatch found Thailand, Cambodia, Pakistan, El Salvador and the Philippines had suffered the most severe impacts from natural disasters in 2011 — events it said could not be  traced back solely to human-influenced climate change, although this could not be discounted as a factor.

Keo Vy, deputy information director of the National Committee for Disaster Management, said yesterday that several media organisations had asked him about the Germanwatch report which he found highly suspect.

“We will not recognise the report made by any unknown organisation,” he said

Sven Harmeling, team leader of Germanwatch’s international climate policy, said the paper was based on data from the Munich Re NatCatSERVICE, one of the most reliable global databases for natural disasters.

“The key factors were [that] the economic damages were particularly high in international terms but also in relative terms because Cambodia is quite a poor country but also the death tolls were quite high,” said Harmeling.

Vy said the NCDM recognised that Cambodia had been “remarkably affected by climate change” because it was a poor developing country, but stressed they did not have the capacity to sufficiently adapt to the phenomena.

A report released by OXFAM on Sunday found that coffers for a $100 billion per year Green Climate Fund from which developed countries would help poorer nations fight the effects of climate change remained empty just one month before the payment was due.

Vy said that since the 2011 floods, the government had been using ADB loans to reconstruct roads and bridges as well as develop irrigation systems that would help mitigate the impacts of future
disasters.

Chhith Sam Ath, Executive Director of Germanwatch partner NGO Forum, said the report showed that Cambodia was already “suffering immensely” from climate change, a situation that was likely to worsen in coming years.

“It is urgent that the international community drastically cut its greenhouse gas emissions and mobilise funding to help Cambodia mitigate these effects in the future,” Sam Ath added.

To contact the reporters on this story: David Boyle at david.boyle@phnompenhpost.com
Phak Seangly at seangly.phak@phnompenhpost.com

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