Keeping ahead of floods and droughts: a case study of Sdau Kaong Commune, Cambodia
The Lower Mekong Basin covers four countries, Lao PDR, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. These countries are often affected by floods and sometimes by droughts. These natural hazards silently and adversely affect people’s livelihoods in the region. In the face of future environmental changes, especially climate change and dam construction along the Mekong River, patterns of floods and droughts are more likely to exacerbate the situation. For this case study of a vulnerable commune in this setting, I developed a hybrid model of the development and complexity paradigms to both organise my research data and extend my analysis. This holistic hybrid paradigm enabled me to explore the interrelationships between natural hazards, disasters, and vulnerability, and adopt a multidisciplinary approach in which I attempt to integrate disaster risk management and climate change adaptation models to highlight problems and to propose interventions. The results obtained indicate that in the future floods and droughts are likely to be more frequent and severe and just what impact additional dams currently being planned or built will have over the control of water levels remains an outstanding question. Plans need to be made to enable people to cope with floods and droughts because these can have a hugely detrimental impact on their livelihoods including crops and personal property, people, community infrastructure and environment. Although current coping strategies are in place, disasters still occur. Based on the vulnerability context of the Sustainable Livelihoods Framework and the Pressure and Release (PAR) model, I was able to show how vulnerability is exacerbated by dissonant social, economic, and political structures. This research also proposes an integrated framework, including adaptive management and participatory action research, as a way of monitoring interventions that could possibly resolve some of the challenges.