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As temp rises, floods to increase in Cambodia: report

A vendor walks through a flooded street in Phnom Penh
A vendor walks through a flooded street in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district in 2011. Photograph: Hong Menea/Phnom Penh Post

Rising global temperatures could greatly exacerbate flooding in Southeast Asian countries such as Cambodia, as well as parts of Africa and South America, a new study by the University of Tokyo has found.

The study, produced by the university’s Institute of Engineering and published in the British science journal Nature Climate Change yesterday, warns that the world’s 29 major rivers, including the Mekong, face escalating risks of mass flooding if climate change continues apace.

Employing 11 different climate models, researchers found that with a mere rise of 3.5 degrees by the end of the century, 42 per cent of the earth’s land surface would face an increased risk of flooding, affecting 100 million people.

That could spell grim news for Cambodia, where some 85 per cent of land lies within the lower Mekong basin, according to the National Committee for Disaster Management.

Keo Vy, chief of cabinet for NCDM, said he could not corroborate nor dispel the study’s findings, but noted that while in the past mass flooding had hit the Kingdom about once a decade, recently the phenomenon had become an almost annual scourge.

“[In the past] there were about 10 or 20 people who would die due to small floods, but in flooding such as that which happened in 2011, when more than 200 people died,” Vy said.

“As I know, there were 16,000 tonnes of paddy provided to the people who were affected by flooding,” Vy added.

While Cambodia was spared from mass flooding in 2012, 2011 downpours killed 250 people, destroyed thousands of homes and ruined or affected hundreds of thousands of hectares of rice paddy.

In 2009, Cambodia was hit by Typhoon Ketsana, which killed 43, caused an estimate $140 million in damages and displaced tens of thousands of families.

Tin Ponlok, deputy director general for the Ministry of Environment’s climate change office, said yesterday that his team was also conducting research with 14 climate change models, but that results were still inconclusive.

“Depending on the projected climate conducted, you might observe more intense floods over the next decade,” he said.

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