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Forecast: coast in danger

A girl walks through floodwaters in Niroth commune, in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district, in late 2012
A girl walks through floodwaters in Niroth commune, in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district, in late 2012. Vireak Mai

Forecast: coast in danger

Residents along Cambodia’s coastline may want to relocate to higher ground in the wake of a climate-change assessment that predicts much of the Kingdom’s coast could be submerged by rising sea levels.

Based on predictive models that take into account global temperature trends and melting ice caps, the scenarios proposed by the draft Second National Communication on Climate Change forecast a loss of coastal land 10 times the size of Paris and half the size of Singapore.

By 2100, more than 38,000 hectares of Cambodia’s beaches will be permanently inundated if sea levels rise by two metres, and about 25,000 hectares will be subsumed by a one-metre rise, the draft report indicates.

“Cambodia’s coastal zone is one of the most vulnerable areas to climate change impacts in the country,” said Setsuko Yamazaki, country director for the United Nations Development Programme, in a statement made on Tuesday. “It is crucial that measures are put in place to minimise these impacts of climate change.”

Representatives from the Ministry of the Environment and the Cambodian National Climate Change Committee declined yesterday to comment on the draft report or when it would be published.

A ministry representative who asked not to be named as he lacked authority to speak with the media confirmed the land loss figures, however, and said that the government is committed to “increasing the climate resilience” of its coastal regions.

The government’s predictive findings echo the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s newest assessment unveiled earlier this week, which warns that Asia’s coasts will bear the brunt of climate change impacts.

Cambodia’s coast has previously been identified as a global warming flashpoint as the nation’s economy and food supply rely on agricultural production concentrated in the flood-prone costal zones.

“Climate change is no longer a remote case, but is affecting all of us in the present and [becoming] one of the grave challenges that must be addressed in the 21st century,” Prime Minister Hun Sen said at the Third National Forum on Climate Change in November.

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