The country is headed for a prolonged dry spell for the first half of next year as the El Nino weather phenomenon hits hard, the government warned yesterday, urging people to put water conservation plans into effect now.
The Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology said El Nino would delay the rainy season to about the end of June and rainfall would be below normal and accompanied by severe thunderstorms, lightning and high temperatures.
The El Nino effect will last from February to mid-July, when rainfall patterns would begin returning to normal with the onset of La Nina, the ministry said, adding the country would suffer severe water shortages in some areas.
“Cambodia was caught in the between El Nino and La Nina for three months in 2015, but was not much effected by the drought. El Nino happened once in 2010, but did not result in as much harm as we expect in 2016,” said ministry spokesman Chan Yutha.
He said El Nino would cause higher maximum temperatures in the South China Sea and the Western Pacific, which would have a strong impact on the region, not just Cambodia.
Mr. Yutha said working groups were now starting to reserve water in 14 provinces along the Mekong and Tonle Sap rivers into pools, to maintain a supply for farming across about 420,000 hectares in case of emergency.
At the same time, the government also called on relevant ministries and institutions and local authorities at all levels to safeguard water supplies until the delayed rainy season.
In line with the weather warning, the government is also urging farmers to shift into dry-weather farming into late next year. And even if there was water in storage pools they should still carefully conserve it.
Officials from the Agriculture Ministry could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Cambodia exported 450,000 tons of rice over the first 11 months of the year, according to a recent report from the Agriculture Ministry.
Although only around half of the government’s goal for the year, rice exports did rise 36 percent over the same period last year, despite 240,000 hectares of rice fields in 16 provinces being severely affected by drought as of November, the ministry said.