Sustainable Coastal Management is one of the key mechanisms to ensure a better chance for Kampot and its people to cope with impacts from both climate and non-climate factors.
As one of the four coastal provinces in Cambodia, Kampot is not only home to more than 600,000 residents but also to several protected areas and the largest seagrass bed in Southeast Asia, which contributes to local livelihoods, the provincial economy and protects against natural disasters.
"If we look at the climate change scenario for Kampot, we can expect stronger winds, higher waves and an increase in the frequency of storms. This will directly impact the fishery, which is one of the major activities here", says Dr Robert Mather, Head of IUCN Southeast Asia Group.
While big development projects and urbanization are booming in Kampot, one of the key concerns is how to balance between development and environmental conservation.
In 2012, a group of representatives from all relevant provincial departments, local communities and IUCN started to discuss their concerns over existing and future impacts of developments, environmental degradation and climate change. As a result of these discussions, and with the support from all parties, the Kampot Coastal Task Force, chaired by the Deputy Governor of Kampot, was set up in late 2012.
"We need to keep a balance between development and protection of natural resources. Within the next five years, I will be retired. But even after I retire, in the next 15 or 20 years I would like to see that a new leader will continue to try to develop Kampot Province and make a lot of progress based on the strategic planning and management that we have developed today", says H.E. Saut Yea, Deputy Governor of Kampot.
Through the technical assistance from IUCN’s project on Building Resilience to Climate Change Impacts in Coastal Southeast Asia (BCR) which is funded by European Union, the Task Force has developed a comprehensive Kampot coastal zone participatory management planning process , which includes further data collection, particularly on seagrass.
"The seagrass area of Kampot may be the biggest in Southeast Asia. However, we have very little data about it. As part of the coastal zone management, this data is needed in order to help us better understand the multiple roles of seagrass, its contribution to human and marine lives, as well as its relationship with factors associated to climate change", says Kimsreng Kong, Senior Programme Officer, IUCN Cambodia.
The Task Force has also discussed the importance of information dissemination through the use of mass media. There is a clear role to be played by the media, both local and national, in order to raise public awareness on the issue. In addition, the team underlines the importance of the gender aspect to be included into the strategic plan.
"I think that it's very important that women are involved in this Task Force. If we look at the implementation on the ground, most of the supporters are women. They play an important role in promoting and raising environmental conservation awareness among children and other members in the family", says Ms Tith Setha, Director of Kampot Provincial Department of Women Affairs.
The road for this Task Force still has a long way to go. However, with concerted efforts and a sense of ownership from everyone involved, this initiative can become a valuable case study for other coastal provinces elsewhere to learn about how coastal communities like the ones in Kampot can cope with and adapt themselves to a changing climate.
By Dararat Weerapong