The Deputy Director of the Department of Hydrology and River Works describes the hydrology field as ‘a doctor of water’: “We only think of doctors as people who take care of patients in a hospital. But hydrology can also be healed and treated.”
With 39 river basins, Cambodia is a country extremely rich in water resources. Therefore, good management of these resources is crucial to people’s livelihoods and hydrology is an integral part of the country’s development. In the past, members of his department had to physically collect and record data from hydrological stations manually. Today, these stations have been transformed into automatic ones. Twenty-nine stations have been installed by the United Nations Development Programme and handed over to the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology in March 2019 as part of a four-year project to strengthen climate information and early warning systems in Cambodia: “That means that the data on water levels is recorded and sent to the department automatically every 15 minutes. We do not have to go to the field every day to record the water level. We have, however, just been to the field to check operations and maintenance, which we do every 2 or 3 months or if the equipment is broken,” Mr. Hun Sothy explained.
The department then uses a model to do flood forecasting based on the data received from these hydrological stations, which they can then share to the public: “This data is really beneficial for people living alongside the river. They can be immediately informed of water levels.”
Having access to timely and accurate weather information enables people to make informed decisions to mitigate risks. This is crucial as Cambodia, one of the world’s most disaster-prone countries, faces growing problems due to climate change. Climate change champions such as Mr. Sothy make a difference every year to the way the country will cope with upcoming disasters and challenges.
As he looks to the future, Mr. Hun Sothy is practical and down to earth - a lot still needs to be done. There are not enough qualified technicians in the field of hydrology in Cambodia today, financial resources are strained and some of the newly installed hydrology stations are stil limited in the way they gather data. Mr. Sothy, however, does not sound defeated - far from it. Having worked for the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology for the last ten years, he is confident that his department will continue to make substantial contributions to the way Cambodia deals with water issues and how this work will help people not only adapt to climate change but also thrive.