After almost two decades in isolation, Cambodia's National Meteorological Station
(CNMS) has rejoined the international weather information-gathering community but
a severe shortage of funds is threatening to end its short-lived return.
"During the last two months, everything has become the burden of the Lutheran
World Service(LWS) which has been supplying CNMS with fuel for generators, transport
and other things necessary just to keep things running," said Andrew Duncan,
a LWS meteorological advisor.
Duncan said the CNMS started providing its meteorological contribution to the world
in October, 1992, but lacks the funds to replace its exhausted instrument stocks,
and that unless additional revenue can be secured in the very near future, its important
upper air program will have to be terminated.
Duncan said the bureau is desperately short of radiosondes, which are attached to
balloons and launched into the sky from where they send back up to 103 different
types of information on the profile of the atmosphere including the maximum and minimum
temperatures, probability of the rainfall, cloud height, jet stream, wind shield,
wind speed, wind direction, pressure and height.
A radiosonde is now released every day to meet the mounting meteorological needs
of different organizations and projects, he said.
However, the Pochentong National Meteorological Station (PNMS), the country's main
weather bureau, has only 20 of the units left.
The radiosondes used in Cambodia were manufactured in the former Soviet Union and
are not re-usable once released because they burst at an altitude of 30,000 meters.
Access to nearly all technical and material supplies used in the meteorological field
have been cut off since the end of the cold war, when the Soviet Union collapsed.
The countries that once formed the USSR also provided Cambodia with meteorological
experts as part of a barter arrangement under which technical aid was provided in
exchange for raw materials. Now, however, they are only willing to do deals in hard
Th Limthong, acting director of the Department of Hydrology recently appealed for
help from the World Meteorological Organization to help find a way to fund the acquisition
of 600 radiosondes, which would be enough to cover the next 18 months.
At the moment, PNMS is netting a monthly revenue of U.S. $1,500 from UNTAC in exchange
for meteorological data which is used for UNTAC's aircraft operations.
Duncan said this money is shared amongst the staff in Phnom Penh and those in the
provinces, because the government is no longer able to support the department.
"We have to work 24 hours a day and seven days a week, so we must provide salaries
to the employees so that they can come to work," he said.
Meteorological information is important for nearly all fields of society including
agriculture, communication, construction, medical services, and aviation.
The Cambodian meteorological service came to a halt when the Khmer Rouge took over
the country in 1975; but was resumed when the Vietnamese-installed Phnom Penh regime
came to power. However, it was only operating on a national level using the old equipment
left from the pre-war period and other equipment donated by the former Soviet Union.
"With such obsolete, inadequate instruments, we've been working like it was
20 years ago", complained a PNMS staff member who requested anonymity. "We
are very far behind the others," he added.
The Australian Bureau of Meteorology has donated some modern instruments, but to
replace all the old Soviet equipment would cost millions of dollars.
Cambodia's National Meteorological Service was set up in 1907 and became a member
of WMO in 1955.
Duncan said the return of Cambodia to the WMO had "fixed a hole in the world's
At the moment, the PNMS works with five different bodies, namely the Meteorological
Institute, telecommunications, weather forecast, climatological and hydrological
sections. In addition to the PNMS, Cambodia has nine other meteorological stations
in Battambang, Siem Reap, Pursat, Kratie, Kompong Som, Kampot, Kompong Cham, Svay
Rieng and Stung Treng which are currently performing three or six hourly observations
which are transmitted to the PNMC, from where the observations are relayed to the
World Meteorological Center (WMC) in Melbourne for inclusion in the Global Telecommunications
Duncan said nine of the 10 stations in Cambodia have been rehabilitated during the
last 10 months with funds and equipment provided by a number of organizations, including
the Australian International Development Assistance Bureau (AIDAB), Australian Direct
Aid Program (DAP), Mekong Secretariat, United Nations Development Program (UNDP),
LWS , Australian Bureau of Meteorology, and British Overseas Development Administration
Concerning the future work of the Meteorological Department, Duncan said the department
is planning to provide an hourly weather update for the press and radio along with
the presentation of weather charts by PNMS staff on television. But that this will
not be able to take place unless there is support from outside.
"We need to have sponsors and more capital equipment to keep us going,"
said the meteorological advisor.
In the future, any companies or organizations that have provided donated funds to
PNMS can have their logos printed on the meteorological lists to be published, broadcast
or presented in the press, on the radio or television, which Duncan said is the best
way for the Meteorological Department to survive.