Sunday, 11 May 2008

Potential impacts of climate change on the Cambodian coastal zone: A Case Study

The Cambodian coastal zone is located in the southwest part of the country, it covers an area of approximately 18,300km2 and plays a significant role in agriculture, fishery, tourism and sea transport, however this environment that exists in a delicate balance between natural process and human activities is under threat. If climate change and sea level rise induced by global warming progress as predicted the consequences for the low-lying coastal areas could be seriously affected. The coastal zone of Cambodia consists of six protected areas, which cover a total area of about 390,000 ha. These areas form to make a very important coastal zone for Cambodia and its people. In the future coastal zones will be directly and indirectly affected by the impacts of climate change and important decisions about coastal management will need to be made. The main impacts of climate change upon Cambodia’s coastline have been identified as follows:

  • Coastal Erosion: caused by removal of coastal vegetation such as mangrove forests, agricultural development and other human activities has left the coastal zone more prone to erosion from sea level rise and increased meteorological events such as tropical cyclones, storms and tidal surges
  • Coral reefs: an increase in sea surface temperatures will pose a major threat to the coral reefs surrounding the coastline. The coral reefs are also under great threat from illegal fishing methods and cutting for sale.

At this point in time there is currently no infrastructure to protect the Cambodian coastline, communities that inhabit the coastal area may be at risk from food supply shortages, health issues and other consequences associated with climate change. As to date no study has been done in the field to work out the true nature of the impacts of climate change and for the possible adaptations available. Because of this Cambodia should prepare detailed policies and plans to get an idea of how climate change will affect its coastline. These could include:

· Comprehensive studies to acquire the existing conditions and their trends in relation to climate change

· A comprehensive vulnerability assessment for the coastal zone (could include SWOT analysis)

· A relevant management plan

· An adaptation plan

· Education and public awareness campaign

For more information about Cambodia’s coastal zone click here

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