Southeast Asia & the Pacific: Intense water deficits persist in Cambodia

19 January 2018

The 12-month map (below) indicates surpluses of varying intensity in western and eastern Myanmar, Laos, much of Vietnam, central Philippines and scattered pockets in Indonesia. Surpluses are expected to be intense in western Myanmar, north-central Vietnam, and central Philippines.

A large block of severe to exceptional water deficit is forecast for western Cambodia. Some moderate deficits are expected in Malaysia and along Borneo’s southwest coast. Slightly more intense deficits are forecast for central Papua New Guinea.

Typhoon Tembin caused catastrophic flooding and landslides in the Philippines in late December, killing at least 240 people. Nearly 97,000 people were housed in 261 evacuation centers and another 85,000 were displaced elsewhere. As the storm proceeded across the South China Sea, hundreds of thousands of people evacuated the Mekong Delta region of Vietnam, where the storm ultimately caused no casualties, having weakened to a tropical depression.

The Philippine government expects to begin the $500 million Metro manila Flood Control Management Project this month. The project, jointly funded by the World Bank, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, and the Philippine federal government, will begin by updating 36 pumping stations in Metro Manila and constructing 20 new stations in several cities.

In mid-January Cambodia hosted the second Lancang-Mekong Cooperation (LMC) Leader’s Meeting, which approved a five-year development plan for cooperative projects along the Mekong River involving China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam. The LMC, established by China in 2015, is seen by many experts as a rival organization to the 60-year-old Mekong River Commission, to which China declined membership. The Cambodian fishing community is one of many threatened by China’s increasing control of the Mekong River, which feeds 60 million people downstream of several Chinese dams. China is currently constructing two more dams along the river, and planning another ten.

In its recently released report on the economy of Papua New Guinea, the International Monetary Fund cites drought as a factor in the sluggish growth of under 3 percent during 2015-2016, and in the persistent grim performance during 2017. Inflation rose to 6 percent due to drought, though some current improvement is noted.

The 3-month maps (below) show the evolving conditions in more detail.

Clearly indicated in the map progression is a gradual transition in the region from predominantly surplus conditions to moderate deficit. Notably, western Cambodia and Papua New Guinea stand in contrast with deficit conditions throughout much of the forecast period.

The January through March forecast shows water anomalies in Southeast Asia and the Philippines similar to those observed in the prior three months, though with some indication of transition. Exceptional surpluses remain in the forecast for western and eastern Myanmar, northern Laos, and parts of northern Vietnam, with surpluses of lesser intensity forecast for southern Laos, eastern Cambodia, and southern Vietnam. Surpluses in the Philippines will downgrade slightly but persist. Exceptional deficits will persist in western Cambodia but the eastern edge will retreat slightly. Transition is noticeable in Thailand as both deficit and surplus conditions are forecast in the northwest and northeast – shown in pink – as deficits emerge. Also apparent in the forecast is a transition in Indonesia as surpluses on Sumatra downgrade and mild deficits emerge in Java, western Borneo, Sulawesi, and Papua.

From April through June surpluses will retreat almost completely, leaving only moderate surplus conditions in southeastern Myanmar, pockets of Vietnam, and central Philippines. Overall, conditions in Southeast Asia will return to nearly normal, though a pocket of extreme deficit is forecast in Cambodia north of Tonle Sap. Moderate to severe deficits will emerge throughout Malaysia and Indonesia, and may be most intense in Indonesian Borneo, western Borneo, and Jakarta. Though intense deficits will retreat in northern Papua New Guinea, mild deficits will emerge in the west.

After June the forecast indicates primarily mild to moderate deficit conditions throughout much of the region with more intense deficits in the Lesser Sunda Islands.

(It should be noted that forecast skill declines with longer lead times.)

There are numerous regions around the world where country borders are contested. ISciences depicts country boundaries on these maps solely to provide some geographic context. The boundaries are nominal, not legal, descriptions of each entity. The use of these boundaries does not imply any judgement on the legal status of any territory, or any endorsement or acceptance of disputed boundaries on the part of ISciences or our data providers. 


Many analyses reported in ISciences-authored blog posts are based on data generated by the ISciences Water Security Indicator Model (WSIM). Other sources, if used, are referenced in footnotes accompanying individual posts. WSIM is a validated capability that produces monthly reports on current and forecast global freshwater surpluses and deficits with lead times of 1-9 months at 0.5°x0.5° resolution. This capability has been in continuous operation since April 2011 and has proven to provide reliable forecasts of emerging water security concerns in that time-frame. WSIM has the ability to assess the impacts of water anomalies on people, agriculture, and electricity generation. Detailed data, customized visualizations, and reports are available for purchase.

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