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Cambodia Environment


The information on this page reflects some of the main environment issues for Cambodia and some of the initiatives that the World Bank is undertaking to address them.

Sustainable use of Cambodia’s natural resources is a key factor to the country’s development. Approximately three-quarters of the population are directly engaged in agriculture and depend upon the land for their daily subsistence. Agriculture and forestry contribute nearly 40 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Tourism, which is based on the country’s cultural and natural wonders, also contributes significantly to economic development. Reliance on these industries means that sustainable management of natural resources and other aspects of the environment are vital for improving rural livelihoods and for economic growth.

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Natural Resource Management
The forests of Cambodia are diverse and comprise a variety of evergreen, deciduous, mixed and mangrove forest types. Current estimates of remaining natural forest cover vary considerably, but the consensus is that about half of Cambodia’s land area has some form of forest cover. Weak governance and unsustainable resource use, shifting cultivation in the upland areas, especially in the northeast of the country, and forest clearing for agriculture are causing rapid deforestation. As a result, Cambodia’s rich natural habitats have been significantly degraded, affecting the quality and quantity of habitat for biodiversity and non-timber forest resources, both important elements of food and livelihood security.
Cambodia’s coastal, marine and freshwater resources are also being degraded by a combination of river and coastal sedimentation (often linked to logging), conversion of mangroves, poorly managed shrimp aquaculture and salt farming and dynamite fishing. Pressures on aquatic resources and on environmentally-significant wetlands are also increasing rapidly, most notably from over-fishing, illegal fishing practices, increasing use of hazardous pesticides, and conversion of flooded forests, as well as swamp drainage for agriculture.
World Bank assistance on natural resource management focuses on forest management, land titling and biodiversity conservation. A Forest Concession Management and Control Pilot Project is helping Cambodia establish an effective logging concession management system and reduce illegal logging. A Land Management and Administration Project is being implemented to improve citizens’ land security and create an efficient land market by providing 1 million families with land titles. Finally, the Biodiversity and Protected Area Project is helping design and build the capacity to operate a well-managed national protected area system.

Urban Environmental Challenges
As the country grows economically, more and more people gravitate towards urban centers in provinces such as Phnom Penh, Kandal, Prey Veng, and Takeo. The resulting higher quantities of untreated urban domestic sewage, industrial effluent and solid waste are polluting surface and ground water in many of Cambodia’s cities and towns. Throughout the country, sewerage system coverage is limited and/or no longer functioning, resulting in increased health risks to urban and peri-urban populations, including higher incidences of diarrhea and cholera.
In addition, the growth of unplanned settlements outside of Phnom Penh is increasing pressure on the city’s existing wastewater infrastructure and the system of natural drainage, which to date has served as the traditional environmental safeguard against flooding. Many flood protection sleeves have been occupied by migrants, restricting water flows and compounding the sanitation problem.
The disposal of hazardous (mostly industrial) waste is also a growing problem in Phnom Penh. There are no special landfills or other treatment facilities for toxic, hazardous or medical waste, which is often burned at open dumpsites, together with solid waste.
The World Bank’s principal initiative in this area is the Provincial and Peri-Urban Water and Sanitation Project. It is financing water supply systems in provincial towns and districts, public toilets (in schools, markets, and hospitals), household toilets, soak-away pits for septic tank effluent and wastewater disposal. Assistance to prepare a wastewater strategy and master plan for Phnom Penh and a possible follow-up wastewater management project is under discussion.

Environmental Policy and Institutional Capacity
Between 1993 and 1996, the Government of Cambodia enacted several key pieces of environmental legislation to establish the legal framework to control, use and manage its natural resources and urban environment. The Ministry of Environment (MoE) is the key agency responsible for environmental protection and natural resources conservation, while the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) is responsible for forest management. Roles and responsibilities among different government agencies overlap in functional areas such as land tenure administration, coastal and marine resource management, wildlife conservation, and protected area management. These overlaps, as well as shortages in skilled staff and insufficient budget allocations, constrain the government’s ability to sustainably manage its natural resources and  environment. However, Cambodia's environmental institutions have become more open to public participation, which was made mandatory, as part of the EIA approval process, in 1999.
The World Bank is helping to increase environmental capacity and information with a range of analytical and advisory services. These include the publication of annual country Environment Monitors and by helping the government better understand poverty- environment linkages through a Poverty-Environment Nexus Study.

For more details on our environment-oriented assistance to Cambodia, visit the Cambodia Country Page.

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