As Cambodia’s annual monsoon season starts again this month (usually June to September) large downfalls that flood city streets will bring renewed frustration and delays for commuters travelling to work or for social outings.
However, for the Kingdom’s surrounding rural provinces flooded roads can mean serious and devastating economic and social isolation – preventing many communities from accessing markets, hospitals, schools and employment opportunities.
According to a recently released report by the World Bank – using geospatial information and road network analysis tools – the organisation found that almost one-third of people (in the rural zones studied) lose complete access to critical facilities during a flood.
“Flooding events create severe disruptions in segments of the transport network that undermine access to health, education, and work opportunities as well as create barriers to economic growth,” the report said.
In response, the World Bank has announced a new digital mapping tool that creates data-driven analytics and geospatial mapping to provide decision-makers with evidence-based information for new road investment prioritisation.
The inputted data coming from both open-source and government databanks will provide the geolocation of agricultural farms, markets, schools and health centres, populating flood risk maps. The relatively low-cost technological solution can then calculate the impact of investment for each road route connecting local communities to critical facilities.
“We have big plans for this new tool, We plan to use it to inform national development strategies aimed at closing accessibility gaps in rural areas. Hopefully, in the long term, access to healthcare, schools, markets and work opportunities will support human capital development and sustained economic growth in the country,” the World Bank said.
Many organisations have commented that while Cambodia’s economy has been growing with major highways being built connecting ports and cities, the nation’s largely still unpaved rural roads have been deteriorating.
Overloaded trucks take the majority of the blame, causing great damage and posing hazards not just to drivers but also to pedestrians and cyclists.
Cambodia is considered to be one of the most vulnerable countries worldwide to disaster risk and climate change, ranked the 12th most disaster-prone country in the 2018 World Risk Index of 172 countries by the Institute for International Law of Peace and Armed Conflict.
With 80 percent of the country within the Mekong River and Tonle Sap basins, Cambodia is especially vulnerable to floods, storms and droughts with road infrastructure affected by significant damage because of disasters.