The World Bank said in a recent report that Cambodia is among 12 countries in East Asia and the Asia-Pacific that are vulnerable to rising sea levels which could lead to the loss of land and force millions of people to relocate.
The report, which was released on Monday, identified coastal areas with low elevation, and assessed the probable consequences of continued sea-level rise for 84 developing countries using satellite maps of the world overlaid with data on population growth.
The study’s findings indicate that the impact of sea-level increases will be particularly severe for this region, affecting Brunei, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, North Korea, South Korea, Malaysia, Myanmar, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.
However, the report did not say how many square kilometres of land or flooded forests that Cambodia would lose, or how many people could be affected by the sea-level rise this century.
Overall, an area of approximately 74,000 square kilometres in the 12 countries would risk permanent inundation by a one-metre sea level rise. A three-metre rise would enlarge the inundated area to 178,000 square kilometres – or larger than peninsular Malaysia.
A one-metre rise would displace approximately 37 million people, and the number of vulnerable would increase to 60 million people with a two-metre rise.
A three-metre rise would impact 90 million people – nearly equivalent to the population of Vietnam.
Tin Ponlok, secretary-general of the National Council for Sustainable Development, told Khmer Times yesterday that he had not seen the report, but that according to past research, rising sea levels were the result of climate change and melting of the polar ice caps.
He said Cambodia has yet to conduct a general assessment of all coastal provinces. Cambodia has four coastal provinces including Kep, Kampot, Preah Sihanouk, and Koh Kong, with a coastline of about 440 kilometres.
“We conducted an impact assessment once in Koh Kong province, which found if the sea level rose one metre, it would flood nearly half of the provincial town because the province is near the sea,” Mr Ponlok said. “We have yet to assess the impact of the other provinces.”
He said the sea level would rise slowly and could have an impact on the people and infrastructure in the coastal provinces.
“If the sea level rises, it will affect the infrastructure and the agricultural land cannot be used any more if flooded. The sea can also penetrate underground fresh water sources, which people won’t be able to use,” Mr Ponlok added.
He said that possible preventative measures included the construction of walls or saltwater dams and planting additional mangrove forests to prevent rising tides and waves.
Construction codes would also have to be adjusted, such as those affecting the structure and height of homes, Mr Ponlok added