Mondolkiri and Kompong Thom provinces could suffer some of the most extreme effects of climate change in the Lower Mekong Basin region, such as a high incidence of flash floods and droughts by 2050, according to a new study.
Analyzing temperature and rainfall data from 84 provinces in the Mekong region—which includes Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam—the study identifies Mondolkiri as a “primary priority hotspot” for vulnerability to climate change.
The province’s maximum temperature will increase by as much as 5 degrees by 2050, while rainfall in the dry season will decrease by about 12 percent. This would put Mondolkiri at a “Very High” risk of “dangerous heat stress” during the dry season, and, during the wet season, there will be an increase in the duration and severity of flooding, flash flooding and landslides. Agriculture, livestock, non-timber forest products and fisheries will all be severely affected.
“Reduced rice and cassava yields are a threat to food security and health, as well as placing more pressure on exploitation of [non-timber forest products] for food. Reduced cassava yields would also reduce livestock feed availability,” the study found.
Kompong Thom province will experience an 18 percent increase in precipitation during the wet season, while its maximum temperatures will increase by up to 4 degrees. This would lead to floods of longer durations, said the study’s lead researcher, Jeremy Carew-Reid.
“It’s not so much the depth [of the floods] if it lasts a couple hours, but if it stays sitting for several weeks, it is much more damaging to crops and livestock,” Mr. Carew-Reid said.
The study’s results are “surprising,” as they show that the 4 to 5 degree increase in the Mekong region’s projected temperatures will be double the global average increase in half the time, he added, pointing to waterway structures—such as hydropower dams, irrigation systems, culverts—and expanding road networks as the cause.
“So, in other words, we will be hitting temperatures well above the 2 degree mark which globally was projected by the end of the century…and we will be hitting them by 2030 to 2050,” Mr. Carew-Reid said. “In general, the alarm bell for me is that many existing sector developments are undermining this region’s climate change resilience.”
To counteract these effects, the government and the affected communities should look into diversifying their crops, such as planting heat-tolerant or drought-tolerant varieties, the study says.
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