Cambodia Faces Drought in 2023

Authorities have sent out a warning that 2023’s dry season will bring droughts countrywide, with residents urged to use water sparingly
Children play along Mekong River in Phnom Penh. Kiripost/Siv Channa
Children play along Mekong River in Phnom Penh. Kiripost/Siv Channa

The Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology has forecast that there will be water shortages in 2023, urging people to save water amid concern for farmers’ livelihoods. To help ease the issues triggered by the predicted droughts, the government is also being called on to prepare strategies.

On December 22, the Ministry announced that the water shortage will take place during the dry season, between March and April.

“Although in the dry season and early rainy season, there may be moderate monthly rains, the amount of rainfall is not enough to meet the immediate needs. Therefore, please continue to save and use water sparingly, especially in remote rural areas far from water sources,” the ministry said in an announcement.

The ministry added that the impact is part of global climate change and Cambodia will also be affected by El Nino and ENSO between January and April next year.

Theng Savoeun, President of the Cambodian Farmers' Union (CCFC), told Kiripost on Tuesday that the upcoming scarcity of water will affect all Cambodians’ livelihoods, especially Cambodian farmers’ income.

“The forthcoming 2023 shortage of water issue will affect cultivation, noticeably the agricultural sector in Cambodia. And it will affect the livelihood of citizens because the Khmer farmers, especially in rural areas, depend on the water from natural favorable factors, especially rain. This will cause their crops and dry-season rice to face withering,” Sovoeun said.

As a solution to the problem, he suggests farmers arrange their cultivating schedule by encouraging them to choose crop varieties that are suitable for short-term growing and can harvest faster. He also urged the government and related institutions to prepare plans to solve these problems.

He added, “Farmers can save more water by stocking water from water resources, like ponds, rivers and so on, for the sake of watering the plants. Secondly, the government should prepare advanced strategies to prevent the shortage of water by drilling more wells. In addition, prepare to have gasoline or kerosene in order to pump water from the Mekong area, or other areas, to distribute as well as intervention whenever facing a dryness crisis.”

Nith Kosal, a junior researcher and Data Hub program coordinator at Future Forum, also raised concerns about poor crop yields if there is a water shortage, especially in agriculture.

“Since the majority of season-dry rice farmers depend on water from underground, ponds or canal water that they have stocked during the rainy season, if there is a shortage of water, it will disrupt their crops,” Kosal said.

He noticed that water shortages have occurred in Cambodia annually and some northern provinces have faced many challenges regarding water supply for drinking and other daily use during the dry season.

However, he added that having​ data that helps to forecast the weather and flag up potential droughts in 2023 is beneficial for the government and other stakeholders to enable them to plan solutions and solve any challenges.