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Climate concerns for Cambodia

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The government needed better mechanisms to adapt to the effects of climate change, which could result in droughts and floods that cause deaths, destroy rice paddies and place an undue burden on the budget, a senior official said yesterday.

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Environment Minister Mok Mareth told a workshop on climate change in Phnom Penh that previous floods and droughts in Cambodia could have been partly the result of climate change.

He said that between 1987 and 2007, there had been 12 floods in which 1,100 people died and the overall cost of recovery was US$327 million, while drought over the same period had affected 6.5 million people and cost $138 million.

“Climate change is an obstacle to social and economic development, so we need to reach an emergency solution,” Mok Mareth said, adding that less-developed countries hoped to be supported in such efforts by a global fund discussed at the 17th Conference of the Parties in South Africa last year.

Mok Mareth said flooding last year had affected 1.5 million people and caused 250 deaths, and the recovery had so far cost $520 million.

Sum Thy, director of the climate change department at the Ministry of Environment, said that Cambodia was developing a national plan to respond to the need to adapt to climate change, although it lacked the knowledge and capacity to fully address its impact.

Mona Laczo, country director at Oxfam America, said Cambodia was particularly susceptible to its food security being threatened by extreme weather events.

“Over 70 per cent of the Cambodian population make their living in agriculture,” she said.

“That’s what makes Cambodia one of the most vulnerable countries in the region.” 

WITH ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY MARY KOZLOVSKI

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