Coastal and flood risk management in South East Asia - Part 3 Cambodia

A collection of interesting, different or strange approaches to manage coastal and flood risks that I stumbled across during a trip though South East Asia.

Flood risk in Cambodia and the Mekong River

With my trip now finished, I am collating my thoughts on my final journey through South East Asia: travelling from Vietnam into Cambodia on the Mekong River. Unfortunately, I had a mishap with my camera so I have borrowed these pictures from colleagues.

I’ve split this short blog into two sections, because after meeting the people of Cambodia and finding them to be some of the friendliest people I have ever met, I thought they deserve their own section.

The mighty Mekong I made my way into Cambodia to Phnom Penh. Here new high-rise buildings over shadow fishermen who still live their life on the river, which shows the two sides of the growing country.

Why am I so interested in the Mekong? Its because from a hydrological view it’s a fairly serious river:

  • It is the 12th longest river in the world, and the seventh longest in Asia.

  • It has a catchment area of 800,000 km2. For reference France is around 550,000 km2.

  • It runs through six different countries, many working through the Mekong River Commission for its ongoing management.

  • Over 70 million people live within its catchment.

  • These people include some of the poorest in the world, who balance the great benefits of the river, mostly in terms of agriculture and fisheries, with the ongoing risk of flooding.

I also heard that half of the fish used in the UK's fish & chips comes from the Mekong River. Not sure if I believed that one, so I'm looking for more inside information.

Above: New defences along the river banks.

Flood risk for the people of Cambodia Here I again need to point out the welcome I received as I travelled in Cambodia. It was the highlight of the journey and made sure this final stop had a lasting impression.

My interest in Cambodia, like the rest of south-east Asia, has always been due to the people living and working within the floodplains, balancing their livelihood against the risks. In terms of risk, Cambodia is considered to be within the top 10 most vulnerable countries to flooding. This is due to the scale of the floodplain, the high exposure of the rural areas to flooding, and the limited technical assistance.

Above: Villages positioned right next to watercourses were a frequent sight.

Up to 80% of the population live in rural areas, with one of five households still living below poverty line, partly due to the impacts of natural disasters. For example, flooding resulted in 70% of rice production losses between 1998 and 2002, which is one of the countries biggest exports.

Above: Villages living with flood risk

Unfortunately without my photos there are not too many more stories I can share, as words alone do not do this wonderful country justice. For anyone interested in any more information, you will have to go and visit yourself!

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