Sopheap Chak

Riding the wave of change in Cambodia

Category: Risk Management System (page 2 of 4)

Mixed Feeling about Bokor National Park Legacy

10 years ago, I visited Bokor Mountain for the first time in my life and it was a historical experience for me to see enlarged and enriched forest covering by huge trees and diversified natural combination. I wished I had a digital camera at that time to capture the beauty I have witnessed to share to my readers (probably my own children or younger generation who has no chance to see such existing things). However, I would try to describe this in text and hopefully you all follow my guiding tour back in the past 10 years.

In a tourist van, sitting on the first row of left-side, near the window area, your heart and soul would just repeating calling your mother to help due to road condition which was just fit your van’s vehicles and looking down on the hill, you could see dept forest where you could not imagine what would happen if your van would just miss its route. However, only one car was able to move forward; luckily, there was commonality that car arrival is permitted in the morning and car departure route is allowed in the afternoon to avoid the movement dilemma. While fearing about the route, the fresh air flowing through all opened window relieved much stressful moment and it is just so fresh and healthy cold in which no international air-con system could compete, not to mention the current equipped Panasonic in a room I am sitting now. When stopping in the middle of the road, while our van was not about to move due to high hill and everyone was advised to walk a bit to reduce the weight in the van, you could smell the forest flowers and other nature combination in mixed colors. What impressed me the most is the huge tree along the way that I had never ever seen them in my life (it could be 5 or 6 person to be able to round that tree up). Up to the hill, I could view the forest coverage while the cloud was so near to my head and my body was about to freeze due to light-clothes dressing. I was at that time so proud to be a Cambodian where my leaders and nation left me such a great nature legacy.

Today, in early 2013, I revisited Bokor National Park; it was totally new in shape and nature. What I should thank to current development would be road condition which I had not to pray to mother to help like in the past, but somehow, I would wish to see some old structure to be kept so that it give a sense of nature to Bokor condition. Even surprising me the most, the huge trees which I had witnessed are gone. I did not know where they were, whether they were old and death or they are logged. Even worse, the old building in red or green color due to the old condition (under sun and rain for long), has been renovated into new and concrete color. It was a sad moment to see such beautiful heritage has been changed in shaped, similar to other buildings or structure, like the well-known Angkor Wat, which the restoration work by the Indian archeologists and engineers in removing the vegetation surrounding the temple had been controversial of either being restored to a lost glory or is being irreversibly damaged.

The disappearance of enriched nature combination that I have witnessed in past 10 years ago and later concerned with the development plan back in 2008 has been taken placed and I do hope the development makers would balance its further strategy to environment and natural preservation. Development that fails to take care its environment and the legacy for next generation is not a sustainable development itself.

Note: I could found a useful blog by Constructing Cambodia who has observed and shared great photo of old and new Bokor Mountain.

The Bootprint of Climate Change on Cambodia

The Bootprint of Climate Change on Cambodia – Bertelsmann Future Challenges.


The Bootprint of Climate Change on Cambodia

Thousands of people around the world celebrate World Environment Day each year with various “green activities.” The global U.N. event to combat climate change has been embraced by companies, locals and heads of state who all heed U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon’s call: “Your planet needs you.”

According to the U.N. Environmental Program, climate change is due to the accumulation of greenhouse gases caused by human activity and especially industry producing large emissions of gases such as carbon dioxide. While there remain uncertainties as to the speed, timing and impact of global warming, the associated risks for humans and our planet have been correctly identified.

The U.N. Development Program’s Human Development Report 2007/2008, emphasizes that “humanity is living beyond its environmental means and running up ecological debts that future generations will be unable to repay.” Such facts can no longer be denied and require an immediate and urgent global and local response.

In Cambodia, the impact of climate change has become apparent, yet the general public is not terribly alarmed as it has little awareness of what climate change means and in any case has its attention occupied by other, more pressing and more readily visible social problems like land grabs, human rights violations and corruption.

Studies have examined the impact of climate change on the country using two approaches: direct and indirect. Direct impact is seen in the change in natural rainfall patterns in the country. Though floods and droughts are common in Cambodia, a study on “Vulnerability and Adaptation Assessment To Climate Change in Cambodia” conducted by the Cambodian Ministry of the Environment says that global warming may increase the country’s wet season rainfall while decreasing rainfall in the dry season. This establishes a clear linkage between the level of global warming and the incidence of natural disasters in Cambodia.

Like other agrarian economies, Cambodia is especially vulnerable to weather-related disasters as more than 80 percent of its population are subsistence farmers. As data from the past five years show, as much as 70 percent Cambodia’s paddy field production was destroyed by floods, and 20 percent and 10 percent respectively by drought and diseases.

Natural disasters have also increased the risk of contagious diseases such as dengue fever, malaria, and other physical and psychological disorders. In 2007 alone, there were some 40,000 reported cases of dengue fever in Cambodia and 407 deaths.
What’s more, health workers say that with increasing mosquito populations  Cambodia could be facing another severe epidemic of dengue fever. Although there has been a general decline in cases of malaria over the last decade, the fatality rate has increased since 2003. It is reported that the number of cases has increased significantly to 83,217 malaria-infected persons in 2009 from 58,887 for the previous year.

The Ministry of the Environment estimates that under changing climatic conditions Cambodia may experience increasing incidences of malaria. Their estimate corresponds to a recent survey conducted by Cambodia’s Climate Change Office which found that the recent increase in the number of cases of  malaria and dengue fever is connected to the change in climate conditions.

Natural disasters have upset fragile ecosystems which in turn have triggered other changes that impact on issues such as rising poverty and malnutrition in children impeding their growth and development.
Meanwhile, damage to infrastructure and land has compelled people to relocate which has caused widespread psychological disorders.  All this illustrates how vulnerable Cambodia is to the impact of climate change given its lack of infrastructure and mechanisms that could lessen the effects.

Furthermore, the strict environmental policies adopted by developed and developing countries have also not failed to have significant side effects on Cambodia where the rule of law and economic development is still weak, and could risk turning the country into a dumping ground for tons of unwanted toxic waste.

In November 1998, for example, a large quantity of mercury-laden waste from Taiwan was dumped in Sihanouk Ville, a famous tourist and port area in Cambodia. Alarmed at the health risks, thousands of residents fled the area, resulting in numerous accidents on a bumpy narrow road which left at least four dead and 13 injured as reported by the New York Times.

Only one month later another case came to light involving more than 650 tons of film scrap waste again from Taiwan, while several months beforehand Sihanouk Ville police found a dump of waste including x-rays, and used cassette and videotapes from South Korea.

All this is evidence of the environmental pollution and hazards caused by the dumping of waste in Cambodia. Rife corruption and the lack of rule of law make Cambodia an easy target for other countries looking for a place to get rid of their toxic rubbish.
Moreover, the “race to the bottom” – the competitive lowering of standards – acts as another incentive for domestic and foreign investors to operate businesses like logging and mining minerals or coal that deplete environmental and natural resources. Often enough, land or forestry concessions are granted without transparent procedures and contracts are approved without any environmental impact assessment.

This phenomenon could well cast doubt on the assumption that democracies – among which Cambodia numbers itself – are better than non-democracies at environmentally sustainable development. It could show that the environmental sustainability and management lie with strong leadership, rule of law and greater civil participation which are what is needed to steer a state away from environmental degradation.

Even though the results of environmental and natural depletion may not be too visible right now, they will be a heavy burden on Cambodia’s next generations who will have difficulty in filling the ecological deficit. At the end of the day, the current trend illustrates that Cambodia is now facing the risk of unsustainable development for the next generation. Immediate action is required to tackle the potential risks that climate change brings.

Cambodia’s weak social infrastructure mainly affects its poor. The government and all other stakeholders must come up with strong policies and fast action to combat climate change.

Join Support the 22/11 Justice Fund

Linking from my previous article on Cambodia: Risk Management Lessons from the Water Festival Stampede, the questions of responsibility and accountability as well as fund management to directly benefit the victims of Koh Pich stampede tragedy resulted to nearly 400 deaths and several hundreds injured, and what steps the government will now take to reduce  risks are all very much open.

The initiative of 22/11 Justice Fund by the Cambodian Center for Human Rights is thus seeks to appeal for support from public donations in order to support the effort of the victims and their families in the search of justice and accountability.

Join support and for further detail of the 22/11 Fund Facebook page at

To help spread the words, embed the code on your site:

<img src=” Poster for CCHR_small.png” border=”0″ />

or another code:

<iframe src=”;width=292&amp;colorscheme=light&amp;connections=10&amp;stream=true&amp;header=false&amp;height=555″ scrolling=”no” frameborder=”0″ style=”border:none; overflow:hidden; width:292px; height:555px;” allowTransparency=”true”></iframe>

Older posts Newer posts

© MMXVI Sopheap Chak

site by: KokiTreego up ↑