Heat, Flooding, Disease: Phnom Penhers Share Their Climate Concerns

7 min read

Ahead of a global summit that the U.N. is hoping will be the “defining moment” for action against climate change, residents around Phnom Penh spoke to VOD trainee reporters about their concerns related to the global challenge.

Many said they were already seeing unseasonal weather patterns and the resulting damage to farms and livelihoods around the country, and said they wanted to make a greater effort to protect the environment.

Calls for Cambodia’s forests to be protected and more trees to be planted were a common refrain, while some respondents linked children’s illnesses to the changing climate.

Interviewees were asked three questions:

  1. What worries you about climate change?
  2. What do you do in your daily life to address it?
  3. What change do you want to see in Cambodia?

Nhoem Penhboromey, cafe owner

  1. These days nature is becoming unstable so fast. There are huge rains with storms. This issue causes many children to get sick. Previously, we never had this problem. Even when it rained, children rarely got dengue fever seriously.
  2. I clean the environment around my house and separate different types of garbage and burn plastic bottles.
  3. I want to ask the government and vehicle importers to check the advantages and disadvantages of the vehicles coming into Cambodia. For those vehicles that have [higher] exhaust emissions, we should not let them come into Cambodia.

— Set Channy

Thok Heng, coffee shop security guard

  1. I’m really concerned about climate change because it affects the next generation, including my son.
  2. I will do whatever I can to protect the environment from climate change, but I think this responsibility falls to leaders, not the people.
  3. I ask our leaders to please protect the forests, and don’t release chemicals into the environment anymore.

— Chhorn Sopheap

On Nouy, 26, electrical engineering student

  1. The weather is changing. It’s becoming hotter and hotter and it causes health problems for people and animals, and now there is flooding and these floods destroy the life of people, animals and houses.
  2. We need to work together to grow more trees to make the heat go down.
  3. We need to grow the trees again because trees can help decrease the heat [and] protect us from floods. Finally, we need to put signs on the trees that say, “No Cutting This Tree,” because the trees can provide rain for farming, flood protection, [and] the trees also produce oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide. So it is very important for human life.

— Mech Choulay

Khun Srey Roth, 32, housewife

  1. I am very concerned about climate change in Cambodia. Climate change causes my children to get high temperatures and the flu very often.
  2. I want the government to stop allowing trees to be cut down and replant trees. When there are many trees, they help as protection against storms and flooding.

— Din Panga

Son Mana, fourth-year environment major at the Royal University of Phnom Penh

  1. I’m concerned about climate change because it affects our environment. We live with our environment — if we don’t care about it, it will affect us. Another thing is I care about the next generation. I have to make it good for them.
  2. I always try to reduce plastic. If it isn’t necessary, I will not use plastic whenever I go to the market. One more thing is I drive less. When I go somewhere close by, I use a bicycle instead of a motorbike. This can help our environment. Furthermore, I used to join programs like World Cleanup Day, planting trees, and joined activists to protect Prey Lang [forest] and Prey Preah Roka [National Park].
  3. I want to see more programs to educate people to reduce plastic use and dispose of trash correctly. One more thing I want to see is the removal of the dump sites because they release a lot of carbon dioxide, which causes climate change. Another thing is, I want to see more Cambodian people use public transportation in order to reduce carbon dioxide.

— Mao Sina

Chan Saran, third-year student at the Royal University of Law and Economics

  1. I am worried that sometimes the weather is very hot or rainy.
  2. I have reduced plastic [use], which can lead to climate change. We do not leave trash outside the bin.
  3. In my opinion, planting trees is very good, and we have to have an arrangement for trash that creates water pollution.

— Va Sopheanut

Kim Boty, first-year public administration student at the University of Cambodia

  1. I’m really concerned about climate change because it is really hot now. It makes it hard to go outside because I’m afraid that it makes my skin darker. In addition, it dries up lakes and rivers, which causes a shortage of water for animals and humans like we experienced last year.
  2. I always help protect the environment with my daily activities. I don’t use body spray because it makes our Earth hotter. One more thing is I don’t like to use plastic packaging, but in case it is necessary, I always recycle it.
  3. I request to all our people to study the causes of climate change and protect our environment. In addition, I request to any related institutions to create [educational] programs about the effects of climate change.

— Sanh Bun Hoeun

Preap Munnysovann, English teacher at the Cambodian University for Specialties

  1. When the climate changes repeatedly it causes many serious problems such as storms, heavy rain, thunder, lightning, flooding, infrastructure damage and effects on humans and animals. In short, we are all concerned about climate change.
  2. Generally, Cambodian people always plant trees or vegetables around a house in order to provide fresh air and comfortable lives.
  3. I want to see our forests conserved. I especially don’t want natural resources destroyed by anyone. For example: trees, mountains, lakes and rivers. As soon as we can solve this problem it will address climate change in Cambodia.

— Mouv Mara

Poeu Det, 26, plantation worker

  1. It’s not good because the weather changes so fast and there’s no forests … We shouldn’t kill ourselves and kill life. I look back at the 1970s, we had a lots of trees … and didn’t have pollution.
  2. I want to see fresh nature and more rain.
  3. The government and people should grow forests and trees again.

— Ban Chantha

Ath Pitou, tuk-tuk driver

  1. I am concerned because now it is hot and rainy. When it rains down it is a bit cold but when it stops it is hotter. So it is more difficult for ordinary people. I’m not alone in thinking that. I’m concerned if it is hotter. It will affect our health, such as kids getting fevers.
  2. The government should do something to reduce the number of glass buildings. We should not have them because the glass causes problems. It reflects light and makes it hot.
  3. In general, all people want good things and don’t want bad things.

— Pan Borin

Doch Sreyphanin, student at the Royal University of Phnom Penh

  1. The main point that I’m concerned about most is the people factor: Because currently [the number of] people in the country is increasing, which makes people use [more] gasoline, which worsens climate change.
  2. I don’t ride motorbikes, don’t ride cars. I ride a battery-powered bike and I don’t use plastic bottles and I don’t use the plastic straws. Instead I use a metal bottle and bamboo straws.
  3. I wish that people in Cambodia would want to reduce, firstly with riding motorbikes and riding cars. Let’s change to riding bicycles or walk instead of using those vehicles, and reduce gasoline [use], which affects climate change and increases global warming. And one more thing: Trash also contributes to increasing global warming.

— Eng Sreypov

Read more of VOD’s Covering Climate Now coverage.

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