Phnom Penh continues to flood during heavy rains, despite efforts by the city to renovate the sewage system.
Cambodia remains increasingly vulnerable to rains that could grow heavier in a changing climate.
Phnom Penh officials say they are working to prepare for impacts, but that it’s difficult in a city essentially built in a basin. An estimated 1.5 million people live in the city, but about twice that number are in the capital working on any given day.
Long Dimanche, a spokesman for City Hall, said Phnom Penh has seen an increase in rainfall, including last year, which saw more than 80 millimeters, some of the highest rainfall in recent memory. Until this year. “This year, during the rainy season, rainfall reached 103 millimeters,” he said.
Litter clogging up narrow sewer lines, which total 600 kilometers in length, have made it hard to release floodwaters, he said. The city is trying to put in wider pipes in some areas, especially on the outskirts, to help.
Cambodia remains highly vulnerable to climate change. The Notre Dame Global Adaptation Index, a measurement of countries’ exposure to climate change, said last year Cambodia ranks along with Bangladesh and the Philippines in its exposure. These are among the worst prepared to deal with the impacts of climate change.
However, Keo Vy, a spokesman for the National Committee for Disaster Management, said Phnom Penh city officials are equipped with materials to deal with flooding when it does come. “In the city, officials have equipment,” he said. “If anything happens, the local authorities in the communes and districts will solve the problem immediately.”
Nevertheless, Long Dimanche said Phnom Penh remains at risk, simply because of geography. “Phnom Penh is vulnerable to floods caused by heavy rainfall and floods from the river,” he said.