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Government issues warning of El Nino drought

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Drought at Toumnub Dach village Obichaon commune Ochrau district in Banteay Meanchey province in 2016. Hong Menea

Government issues warning of El Nino drought

The government on Thursday issued a statement raising concerns of a drought, as El Nino threatens to cast a prolonged dry spell when it hits the Kingdom in April and May.

In the statement, Prime Minister Hun Sen appealed to residents and the authorities to be ready for the probable troubling effects caused by the weather phenomenon.

Temperatures are forecast to soar up to 42 degrees Celsius and with some thunderstorms, coupled with strong winds that will sweep through some parts of the country during the warm cycle.

Farmers are advised to delay the next rice production cycle, which traditionally runs from May to November, and divert water to irrigate other crops instead.

The statement calls for the preservation of water on “reservoirs, natural ponds and lakes” and suggests that people use less water for daily activities.

The authorities are to prepare to mitigate the impacts caused by El Nino, particularly among “vulnerable communities”, it said.

Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology spokesman Chan Yutha on Thursday briefly explained the weather pattern and recalled the 2015-16 El Nino, saying: “It is the warming of the ocean surface in central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean. In 2016, it affected two-thirds of the planet.”

In Cambodia alone, he said, tens of thousands of people were affected.

Several provinces in the south, west and north of the Kingdom – such as Battambang, Banteay Meanchey, Siem Reap, Oddar Meanchey and Preah Vihear – saw temperatures rising between 40 and 42 degrees Celcius, Yutha said.

Banteay Meanchey’s Mongkol Borei and Sisophon districts were hit badly by El Nino in 2016, he continued. About 10 million cubic metres of water was distributed to the residents of the two districts from Kamping Puoy lake, located 110km away.

The World Health Organisation estimated that more than 60 million people, particularly in Latin America, the Caribbean, the Asia-Pacific region, as well as eastern and southern Africa, were affected due to the extreme events.

Yutha said Cambodia is more prepared now, having had prior experience in dealing with the extreme events.

“Our concern is people would start planting rice in the next season. This would be a problem because of the possible drought, and rice crops require a lot of water.”

He said 11 working groups from the ministry have been sent to the countryside to inform people not to start the next rice production cycle now and to save water.

Ly Sary, Banteay Meanchey Deputy Governor said water shortage has started to occur in Svay Chek and Preah Netr Preah districts. The provincial authorities, he said, have asked the National Committee for Disaster Management for help.

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