Cambodia: Climate information and early warning project closes with strong results
As climate change drives more extreme weather across Cambodia, more monitoring infrastructure enables improved adaptation to climate change
As climate change drives more disruptive and destructive weather around the world, Cambodia has advanced its climate infrastructure with modernised climate information and early warning systems. The conclusion of the five-year CIEWS project implemented by the UN Development Programme alongside the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, and the National Committee for Disaster Management strengthens existing adaptation initiatives in the country towards a more prepared, climate-informed future.
Digitalising the world of weather has been a major accomplishment of the project, with installation of 53 automatic weather and hydrology stations, and improvements in modelling systems including development of a hydro-meteorological platform capable of storing, enhancing, and analysing real-time data captured by the stations. The advancements are crucial to forecasters’ ability to better understand and predict the weather.
Also under the project, several new platforms – developed by global early warning experts RIMES – now support the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology and the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries to work more effectively with communities. Phone-based early warning system ‘EWS 1294’, developed by People in Need to issue hazard alerts to subscribers, is now available in all provinces.
“In 2015, Cambodia set out its priorities for climate action under the global Paris Agreement, including improving the adaptive capacity of communities, strengthening early warning systems and climate information, and strengthening national capacity to conduct impact assessments and projections,” said Minister for Water Resources and Meteorology, H.E Lim Kean Hor. “This project has propelled us forward in these areas: we now have more climate monitoring infrastructure across the country, and forecasters are more equipped to inform Cambodians about what the weather holds.”
“While the impacts of global climate change are being thrust upon us, we have to adopt pro-active approach in adapting better to the climate change,” said UNDP Residential Representative, Mr. Nick Beresford. “In fact, UNDP and the Royal Government of Cambodia have shown that through this project in reducing risk and adapting to climate change – ensuring we build forward better, and that all Cambodians live, work and play in a safer world.”
Since August 2018, data from the monitoring stations installed by the project have been used by MOWRAM’s forecasters to issue public climate advisories. Data from the weather stations now directly informs warnings to the public, broadcast regularly via the Department of Meteorology’s website.
Events of recent weeks have shown how devastating extreme weather can be. Flooding in many Cambodian provinces including Kampong Speu, Battambang Pursat, Banteay Meanchey, Oddar Meanchey, and Preah Vihear has affected livelihoods, damaged roads and dams, and led to several deaths.
More monitoring stations and more knowledgeable Cambodian forecasters (hydrological and meteorological) mean that more accurate climate information can be delivered to Cambodian communities. This helps inform people of extreme weather events and evacuate before their areas are hit. The ultimate objective of EWS is certainly to avoid death toll from climate events. In the longer term, climate information could help the Royal Government of Cambodia in implementing and achieving the objectives of the country's Climate Change Strategic Plan.
Working with communities has also been the focus of this project. At the local level, the Provincial Committees for Disaster Management of 11 provinces were able to send out alerts to EWS1294 registrants before and during flooding – more than 212,000 people received warning messages advising them about potential hazards and evacuation.
In addition to modernised infrastructure, more than 12,000 have been Cambodians trained under the project, including 23 ‘Women Champions’ in Kampot, Kep and Pursat who have become leaders in early warning systems and disaster risk reduction. They have also been involved in developing several Charters of Demands and a Cambodia Women’s Resilience Index, both of which aim to give women more of a voice in adapting to climate change.
In coastal communities, 70,680 mangroves have been planted to help improve biodiversity and reduce damage from storm surges, while solar water pumps installed by partner ActionAid Cambodia are providing six villages with easier and cheaper access to water during the dry season. A partnership with DanChurchAid has helped over 2,300 farmers better prepare for droughts, as well as supporting eight Drought Infohubs, which will facilitate better drought coordination between provincial departments.
Meanwhile the project has worked alongside the National Committee for Disaster Management to establish a long-term Disaster Risk Reduction Framework and National Action Plan for Disaster Risk Reduction. These complement strategies such as Standard Operating Procedures for Multi-Hazard Early Warning Systems, and proposed Climate Zonation for Cambodia, both of which were also developed under the project.
The project also assisted the Government of Cambodia in setting up priority actions for disaster risk reduction and early warning systems as part of the country’s revised Nationally Determined Contribution to the UNFCCC.
Further resources including infogrpahics, reports and impact stories, including videos and people’s accounts, are housed on the project page.