Dream Cambodia Project a First for Asia

Dream Cambodia Project a First for Asia
Village consultation, Cambodia

Cambodia’s Climate Change Adaptation Output (CCAO) was a “dream project” for Tonkin + Taylor International’s Dr Bapon (Shm) Fakhruddin.

In a first for any Asian country, the five-year Asian Development bank (ADB)-funded project took infrastructure asset management and development to micro levels, focusing on the risk resilience and welfare of Cambodia’s most isolated and at-risk people. The project was so successful, that ADB is keen to see it replicated in other countries.

“This was a unique project where we were able to connect infrastructure sectors, people and early warning and emergency response systems together”, said Dr Fakhruddin, who worked as part of a dedicated project team.

“The transport sector deals with roads and transportation, but underneath it all, it is for the people. The Ministry of Rural Development (MRD) is now able to understand the link between community roading needs and disaster risk, which enables them to set up rural infrastructure and support for the community.

“It was a dream project - to holistically enhance people’s safety and wellbeing, and not just focus on asset management. It had never happened in any sector in Asia before”.

CCAO also incorporated significant Emergency Management Systems objectives, as well as implementation strategies.

Of Cambodia’s 16.1 million people (World Bank, 2017), 82% live in rural areas. The country is rich in minerals, although most of its rural population are farmers. Three years ago, Cambodia exceeded the Millennium Development Goal and became one of the best performers in poverty reduction worldwide, with poverty reducing by 53% (World Bank, 20 February 2014). Although increased rice prices and production made a big difference, improved roading was a key player in poverty reduction, providing easy access for farmers taking their produce to market.

But Cambodia is still teetering on the brink and an economic set-back could happen at any time. It faces an increasing incidence of devastating climate change-related floods - which threaten lives and livelihoods and leave massive repair bills in their wake - and long periods of drought. The 2016 drought was the worst in decades, plunging millions of people into poverty and despair, killing wildlife and leaving lake and river fish high and dry. The country also still carries the social and economic scars left by 30 years of war.

The “Outcomes 1” planning phase took place from 2012 - 2015. An implementation plan was developed for a pilot climate change office at MRD, which is still working on the ADB loan - financed rural roads improvement project. Communities were selected for early warning and emergency response assessments, socio-economic surveys, capacity development plans, coordination mechanisms and procurement plans for the establishing of coordination and operational offices at province and district level, along with community shelters.

“Outcomes 2” (2015 to 2017) focused on implementation and establishing of early warning systems, emergency response facilities and capacity development. Cheu Teal, in Kampong Thom’s Sandan district, was chosen as a pilot area. Most of its access roads flood during the rainy season, cutting off communities and endangering lives.

Dr Fakhruddin and his team took a pragmatic, “bottom-up” approach, starting with discussions and needs assessments at community level. Once these were completed, the practical work to improve safety and resilience got underway.

Three flood shelters were established in Kai Raing, Ang Duong Pring, and Cheu Teal. An Emergency Operations Centre was developed at Cheu Teal and an Emergency Information Centre established for Kampong Thom Province. Simulation exercises taught locals how to use roading networks to quickly access emergency shelters. Alternative route information and improved safety route signage was provided and, for the most vulnerable community, an evacuation boat was supplied.

“These facilities will build confidence within the communities to respond better to natural disasters”, said Dr Fakhruddin. “The shelters are multipurpose, not only providing safety during disastrous floods, but also enabling communities to strengthen their social activities and to develop revenue streams”.

The shelters are also happy places, providing venues for wedding parties, weekend farmers’ markets and meetings. Users are charged a small fee that goes toward maintenance.

At national level, coordination was established across a number of agencies such as the Cambodian Red Cross Society and Government agencies to enhance the country’s preparedness and mitigation measures aimed at enhancing resilience to natural hazards.

An Early Warning System (EWS) was also developed and is now being implemented. Nordic Development Fund provided parallel grant financing for CCAO.

Dr Fakhruddin is delighted with the outcome of the project, which he proudly refers to as his “baby”.