Mapping Vulnerability to Natural Hazards in Ratanakiri
In terms of the percentage of population affected by natural disasters, and the relatively low adaptive capacity of communities, Cambodia is one of the most disaster-prone countries in Southeast Asia. Every year, a significant number of people are exposed to natural hazards, which threaten their security, livelihood and well-being. Ratanakiri, a province vital to the political and economic interests of Cambodia, is located in the North-East section of the country, bordered by Viet Nam and Lao PDR. Ratanakiri used to be known as a densely forested province. Today, large swaths of the province have been logged, leaving the ecological integrity of the region frail at best. A large majority of the population is composed of indigenous groups and other ethnic minorities who directly use the forest for their sustenance requirements. Their marginalization, compounded by a strong reliance on natural resources, leaves these communities particularly vulnerable to the effects of environmental degradation and natural hazards.
Changes in the political climate and legal context of Cambodia can have far-reaching implications on the lives, traditions and livelihoods of indigenous populations who have traditional claims to, and make use of, natural resources in Ratanakiri. The post-conflict
economic opening of the province highlighted several development challenges threatening these claims as indigenous peoples remained largely marginalized from decisions affecting ongoing developments in the province. However, the passage of several important laws, decrees, sub-decrees, and policy documents in recent years, provides new opportunities for the interaction of natural resource management policies and disaster risk reduction strategies, particularly in the context of decentralization reforms and distribution of mandates at the sub-national and community levels.