Water Pollution in Cambodia – Causes, Effects, Overview

The Southeast Asian nation of Cambodia is situated in a location that receives monsoon rains from May to November each year, and the Mekong River flows through it.

Even though it seems unlikely, the fact that we are talking about water pollution in Cambodia should tell you something about the country.

Water Pollution in Cambodia – An Overview

Two out of every ten individuals in Cambodia, or nearly 3.4 million people, lack basic access to safe drinking water. Furthermore, the country in Southeast Asia continues to have a severe water shortage despite having about half of the year’s worth of rain.

However, the issue goes beyond water. 6.5 million people lack basic sanitation or access to their toilets as of right now. It affects the following:

  • It makes finding a dignified and safe location to go difficult, if not impossible.
  • Families that urinate outside frequently contaminate nearby surface water sources.

Nonetheless, Cambodia is not defined by its water crisis. The economy of the nation is among the fastest-growing in the world, and the percentage of people living in poverty is declining yearly. Positive changes are being made by the government, neighborhood associations, and communities themselves.

Drinking Water

While any Western nation can obtain drinking water simply by turning on the faucet, this is a luxury enjoyed only by those in the West. Rainfall serves as the primary source of drinking water for villagers in a nation like Cambodia.

Large cement structures are used to collect and store water, keeping it there for a long time. Nevertheless, this can serve as a breeding ground for mosquitoes and produce parasites that pose a threat to the environment.

This indicates that a large number of people, particularly youngsters, suffer from ailments that are easily treatable. Nevertheless, getting the necessary chemicals and treatment to clean the water is very expensive.

Contaminated Water

Another source of contamination is improper waste disposal. Everyone uses the floor behind the building where they live, work, or cook to dispose of their rubbish. This waste just sits in the muddy water of the fields where their food is grown.

This garbage, especially plastic bags, is dispersed throughout the nation. Some poisons from this garbage leak into the earth and the water through either surface or groundwater.

Lack of Infrastructure

Another major problem is the absence of suitable infrastructure to handle the extra rain during the rainy season. Every time it rains, the water in the area stands still, causing saturated, unstable soils and drawing in undesired creatures like insects and snakes.

Another problem in the markets is the contamination from runoff that travels through extremely crowded parts of the city. The majority of the roads in this country are dirt, so the standing water will also make them unstable, which will make it difficult for people to use motorcycles—the primary mode of transportation in Cambodia.

Here are the most important details concerning the current water crisis in Cambodia and how you can help put an end to it.

Causes of Water Pollution in Cambodia

The main cause of the water problem in Cambodia is the tainted water supply, which comes from various sources. Though metropolitan areas also have problems, rural communities with little infrastructure are severely affected by the absence of clean water.

  • Waste Disposal
  • Water Storage
  • Improper Infrastructure
  • Lack of Hygiene Education and Infrastructure
  • Cambodia’s Access to Clean Water

1. Waste Disposal

Plastic garbage bags stacked outside of homes and businesses are a regular sight in Cambodia’s rural communities. These places are occasionally extremely close to agricultural fields.

The poisons from plastic bags frequently pollute sources of drinking water, in addition to the rubbish occasionally seeping into the food plants of the neighboring towns.

2. Water Storage

Most settlements in the nation rely on rainwater to supply their drinking water. The water that has been preserved for a long time usually draws insects, parasites, and other contaminants.

Numerous individuals, particularly vulnerable kids, become ill from drinking water-related ailments. These villages will require methods for water supply purification to benefit from this stored water.

3. Improper Infrastructure

Although most people would assume that the monsoon season would be a boon to those without access to water, unprepared communities may face difficulties. Flooding-related pools of heavy rain also attract undesirable species to drinking water sources and soils.

With no infrastructure in place to prevent an increasing amount of toxins from growing in the water, water runoff is a major problem in more densely populated areas.

4. Lack of Hygiene Education and Infrastructure

In the West, we frequently take for granted the freedom to easily wash our hands and utilize secure restroom facilities whenever we need to. Sadly, a vast number of people lack access to either bathrooms or handwashing stations.

Since human excrement might further contaminate water, many are compelled to utilize the bushes outside. In these places, the transmission of disease is significantly rapid.

5. Cambodia’s Access to Clean Water

Since most of Cambodia is rural, compared to its urban areas, a disproportionate number of people lack access to clean water. Both positive and negative things are plaguing the nation.

Although the economy is expanding more quickly than that of many of its neighbors, it is currently experiencing a slowdown as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic’s aftereffects.

The consistent monsoon season in this country in Southeast Asia could give the impression that water is abundant. Regretfully, that is not the case.

Many communities currently get all of their drinking water from groundwater. It can occasionally take more than thirty minutes for residents of remote areas to get access to potable water. Even farther away are millions of others.

Effects of Water Pollution in Cambodia

In their assessment of the effects of climate change on youth, UNICEF placed Cambodia 46th out of 163 countries. According to the assessment, Cambodia was classified as a high-risk nation. Young people in Cambodia are already heavily exposed to water scarcity and flooding.

  • Water Scarcity
  • The Outbreak of Infectious Diseases
  • Impact on the Animal Food Chain
  • Impact on Aquatic Life
  • Destruction of Biodiversity
  • Economic Effects

1. Water Scarcity

One consequence of water contamination in Cambodia is a shortage of water. Moreover, viruses, bacteria, parasites, and pollutants contaminate freshwater supplies, creating a “water shortage.” Due to a lack of sanitation brought on by water scarcity, several illnesses, infections, and deaths have occurred.

According to the Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP), a global database of statistics on water, sanitation, and hygiene, 21% of Cambodians cannot reach safe drinking water in less than 30 minutes round trip. Eleven percent of the population still depends on surface water from rivers, ponds, and springs, according to data from 2017.

In all, 3.4 million people in Cambodia still lack basic access to clean water. The nation is currently facing a water problem, which everyone has been working to address, including the local government, nonprofit organizations, private citizens, and communities.

Typhoid fever, cholera, dysentery, and diarrheal illnesses are waterborne tropical diseases that can be brought on by a lack of water. There are also other common illnesses, including typhus, the plague, and trachoma, an infection of the eye that can cause blindness.

2. The Outbreak of Infectious Diseases

One consequence of water contamination in Cambodia is the rise in infectious diseases.  Over 2 billion people are forced to drink excrement-contaminated water, which puts them at risk of cholera, hepatitis A, and dysentery, according to the WHO.

Humans are affected by pollution, and feces in water sources can spread diseases like hepatitis. Poor drinking water treatment and inappropriate water can always be the source of infectious diseases like cholera and other illnesses.

3. Impact on the Animal Food Chain

One of the consequences of water contamination in Cambodia is that it affects the animal food chain. The food chain could be significantly impacted by water contamination.

The food chain becomes chaotic as a result. Hazardous substances like lead and cadmium can cause more disruption at higher levels if they get into the food chain through animals (fish that mammals eat, for example) or people.

4. Impact on Aquatic Life

One of the consequences of water pollution in Cambodia is its effect on aquatic life.  Aquatic life is significantly impacted by water contamination. In addition to causing illness and death, it has an impact on their behavior and metabolism. Dioxin is a toxin that can lead to several problems, including cancer, unchecked cell division, and infertility.

Fish, poultry, and beef have all been reported to bioaccumulate this chemical. Chemicals like this move up the food chain before they enter the human body. Water contamination has the potential to disrupt, alter, and even kill the environment.

5. Destruction of Biodiversity

One result of water pollution in Cambodia is the destruction of biodiversity.  Eutrophication is the process by which water pollution destroys aquatic habitats and allows phytoplankton to spread unchecked throughout lakes, ultimately resulting in biodiversity extinction.

6. Economic Effects

One of the consequences of water pollution in Camobia is economic. The global economy, the environment, and human health are all harmed by declining water quality.

David Malpass, President of the World Bank, issues a warning about the financial repercussions, saying that “in many countries, deteriorating water quality is impeding economic progress and aggravating poverty.”

This is because the growth of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the areas within the associated water basins is cut in half when biological oxygen demand, an indicator of organic pollution in water, surpasses a certain threshold.

Possible Solutions to Water Pollution in Cambodia

  • Encourage people to modify their lifestyles and consumption patterns
  • Adopt the process of desalinating contaminated water using effective desalination plants
  • Consider Community-based Governance and Collaboration
  • Development and Implementation of Better Policies and Regulations
  • Improve the Infrastructure for Distribution
  • Water Projects in Developing Countries/Transfer of Technology
  • Climate Change Mitigation
  • Population Growth Control

1. Encourage people to modify their lifestyles and consumption patterns

One way to combat water pollution in Cambodia is to educate people about changing their consumption patterns and lifestyles. Education that encourages new habits is necessary to turn this disaster around.

The upcoming age of water scarcity would require a complete overhaul of all consumption, from small-scale home use to the supply networks of large corporations like GE.

There is currently a freshwater shortage in a few locations, including Australia, India, and the Southwest region of the United States. Making sure that everyone is aware of the situation is the most crucial step.

2. Adopt the process of desalinating contaminated water using effective desalination plants

One method for resolving Cambodia’s water pollution problem is to employ effective desalination plants to remove salt from contaminated water. Water scarcity has historically been addressed with high-energy methods like desalination.

In the past, the Middle East has built desalination plants using its abundant energy resources. Saudi Arabia might be creating a novel kind of desalination with its recent announcement to establish solar-powered facilities.

In terms of small-scale agricultural facilities, the UK has opted for an alternative approach. But these discoveries also highlight the importance of sponsoring technological exploration as a vital resource.

3. Consider Community-based Governance and Collaboration

In this instance, neighborhood organizations elevate the voices of people whose tales need to be told. Communities gain more influence and have a better chance of successfully influencing national policy when local administration is more effective.

4. Development and Implementation of Better Policies and Regulations

One approach to addressing water pollution in Cambodia is the creation and execution of stronger laws and regulations. As food security and pollution are threatened by water scarcity, governments need to redefine their role.

5. Improve the Infrastructure for Distribution

One of the ways Cambodia may address water pollution is by enhancing the distribution infrastructure. Poor infrastructure is bad for the economy and for people’s health. It depletes resources, drives up costs, decreases living standards, and increases the risk of preventable water-borne infections in vulnerable populations, especially children.

6. Water Projects in Developing Countries/Transfer of Technology

One way to address water pollution in Cambodia is to implement knowledge transfer and water project implementation in underdeveloped nations. The most noticeable effects of climate change and water scarcity are being seen in Cambodia.

One possible solution is to bring water conservation techniques from developed nations to these arid regions. Government and corporate authorities are usually forced to impose these reforms on residents due to poor economies and skills shortages.

7. Climate Change Mitigation

Water scarcity and climate change work together to produce some of the most urgent issues facing humanity today. Both issues are related, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which notes that “water management policies and actions can affect greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.”

The development of alternatives ranging from bio-energy crops to hydropower and solar power plants must consider the water consumption of mitigation techniques like these as renewable energy options are sought after.

8. Population Growth Control

Due to the world’s increasing population, some regions may experience a supply-demand mismatch in water resources of up to 65% by 2030.

Presently, more than a billion people lack access to safe drinking water. Since 70% of the freshwater on Earth is used for agriculture, it is crucial to acknowledge water’s role in food production as resource and climate conditions shift.


Hope exists! We are pleased to support the Cambodian government in its endeavor to deliver clean water to all of its citizens! The nation’s rates of poverty and sickness are declining, and resolving the water situation will contribute to an even greater decline.


A passion-driven environmentalist by heart. Lead content writer at EnvironmentGo.
I strive to educate the public about the environment and its problems.
It has always been about nature, we ought to protect not destroy.

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