PM: Worse natural disasters outcome of climate change

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Residents try to save their belongings from floodwaters in Dangkor commmune of the capital’s Dangkor district in October last year. Heng Chivoan

Prime Minister Hun Sen instructed his subordinates to strengthen natural disaster management mechanisms with an increased focus on risk mitigation as a means of reducing the overall level of damage caused by such events.

He said the authorities need to be ready to respond to an increasing number of natural disasters and to be ready to deal with natural disasters of unusual severity because of the impacts of climate change, with particular attention paid to planning in advance the means to protect vulnerable people such as the poor, elderly, children and those with disabilities as well as building the capacity to launch fast-reaction rescue missions when necessary.

Hun Sen offered his commentary in a letter written to commemorate National Disaster Management Day on October 13, which was held this year under the theme of “Increasing Disaster Risk Preparedness for the Safety and Resilience of Villages and Communes.”

Hun Sen wrote that the entire world – with Cambodia no different – has had to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic for the past two years while other kinds of natural disasters were also happening – in some places at previously unforeseen rates and alarming intensity – such as wildfires, storms and floods all bringing the destruction of property and loss of lives those events entail.

He noted that the government hadn’t remained idle in response and that much work had already been completed in areas like water resource management and the restoration of irrigation and drainage systems like reservoirs, canals, dams and flood gates.

“The government has also improved its mechanisms for the prediction of severe weather events and modernized our technological systems for disseminating this information to the public. As a result we can say that our ability to make weather predictions that are both accurate and timely in order to reduce the impacts of disasters caused by flooding or droughts has improved greatly.

“The government also has had some successes with research on improving our methods for cultivation of rice and other crops and developing types that are capable of adapting to climate change,” he said.

Hun Sen urged the public to be aware of their local situation by communicating with local authorities often and to take care of the environment’s hygiene and health as they would their personal health through orderly and appropriate management of rubbish and solid waste.

He emphasized the need to reduce the nation’s overall usage of plastic products because of their environmental impacts and specifically the problems that plastic and rubbish are causing in Cambodia’s flood drainage systems.

“I urge the private sector, development partners and civil society organizations to continue to cooperate with the government and with each other to mobilize resources necessary for effectively mitigating disasters and increasing resilience to climate change,” he said.

He also urged the media to widely broadcast news of emergency weather forecasts and to prominently feature any information or official warnings that could be of immediate impact to public safety anywhere in the nation, such as the level of the waters in Stung Sre Pok River, for example.

According to the NCDM’s figures for the first eight months of this year, 94 people have died and at least 158 others have been injured by natural disasters including fires, storms and lightning strikes.

The report said 7,800 residential homes and 220 schools, factories and public administration buildings have also been destroyed by these disasters.