More than 70% of the Earth’s exterior is covered with water, and it is one of the most significant sources to balance the ecosystem and humanity.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) states that polluted water is water whose composition has been changed to the extent that it is unusable. 

 “Thousands have lived without love, not one without water”.

British poet W. H. 

Cambodia is a developing country that is rapidly growing, causing a lot of environmental pollution. The lack of proper waste management practices and restricted public awareness remains one of the most significant urban ecological challenges. 

As per the Environmental Performance Index for 2018 (conducted by researchers at Yale and Columbia Universities and the World Economic Forum), Cambodia ranked relatively low, at 150 out of 180 countries.

The wastewater is directly connected to the water resources like rivers, lakes, etc., which causes dreadful water pollution.

In the past two decades, water resources and drainage systems have deteriorated significantly in Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital city and economic center.

Either humans or nature itself causes water pollution. Here are ten causes of water pollution in Cambodia. 

Table of Contents

1. Industrial Waste

A significant amount of waste is produced by industries which causes water pollution as there is no proper waste management. The polluted water goes into pipes, rivers, and further to the sea.

This toxic water harms the fish species and affects the species diversity, affecting humans on consumption.

Industries still depend on old and outdated technologies that produce more pollution than contemporary technologies.

Industries tend to avoid the high prices of modern technologies by using obsolete technologies, even though they are fully aware of the efficiency of recent technologies.

Even though the industries help restore the development of the economy, it simultaneously degrades the environment. 

2. Sewage and Wastewater

Sewage - Cambodia water pollution
Open sewage of Cambodia (source)

One of the significant obstacles in Cambodia is Sewage disposal, as many people in this sector don’t have access to sanitation and clean water.

There is local domestic waste management infrastructure in Cambodia’s urban area, and most domestic waste goes directly into waterways as a point-source discharge without handling. 

This unmanaged wastewater directly affects increased diarrhoeal diseases, such as cholera, typhoid fever, and rotavirus, which causes 297,000 deaths per year of children under five years old.

Due to technical inexpertise, water quality data and testing systems are still not developed correctly in Cambodia.

3. Mining Activities

Mining - Cambodia water pollution
Mining activity in Cambodia (source)

Mining means the extraction of minerals and metals from the Earth. Extraction has caused many environmental hazards.

Illegal mining has contaminated the water resources, which is the closing down of water treatment plants. Extraction of these minerals in the raw form contains damaging chemicals and can increase the toxic elements when mixed with water, resulting in health hazards. 

Local sources say that villages in Cambodia are voicing their health fears as the contaminated river water from the mining has sickened and killed their livestock and fish.

Water pollution caused by mining is Acid Mine Drainage, Heavy Metal Contamination & Leaching, Processing Chemicals Pollution, Erosion, and Sedimentation. 

Acid is carried by rainwater or surface drainage and deposited into nearby streams, rivers, and lakes. Acid rainfall severely degrades water quality and can kill aquatic life and make water worthless.

4. Chemical fertilizers and pesticides

pesticide - Cambodia water pollution
Cambodian Farmer using a pesticide (source)

Contemporary agriculture has included several innovative ideas to strengthen crop production, such as applying chemical fertilizers and pesticides in farming.

Farmers are found using chemical fertilizers and pesticides to protect crops from damages done by insects and bacterias. It further helps in the growth of plants. 

But it has its reasonable share of damage, and Chemical fertilizers contain phosphates, nitrates which is the main reason behind water pollution.

As the drainage of nutrients occurs, the chemicals result in the growth of microorganisms. Which results in oxygen depletion, and the death of aquatic animals is caused due to suffocation.

When it rains, the chemicals are mixed up with rainwater and flow down into rivers and canals, which causes severe damages to aquatic lives.

5. Leakage From Sewer Lines

Even a tiny leak from the sewers contaminates the surrounding groundwater until it is undrinkable. One of the most well-known causes of water pollution is hazardous waste materials from sewage.

Underground sewers perish over time resulting in cracks and joint defects, which causes human waste products to seep out and end up in nearby groundwater. 

This contaminated water can cause Nausea, Vomiting, Diarrhea, Gastrointestinal problems, Stomach cramping, Dehydration, Developmental problems, Reproductive problems.

You may sometimes experience drinking water that looks, smells or tastes slightly off. Be wary about this; if it happens, it’s a sign your water is contaminated. 

There are inadequate human and financial resources in Cambodia, making it harder to solve the swear leakage problem.

6. Global Warming

climate - Cambodia water pollution
Drought in Cambodia (source)

Global warming is one of the humans’ significant concerns and an important factor in water pollution. Global warming is caused by pollution that traps heat around the Earth. 

The gradual heating of Earth’s surface has been observed since pre-industrial times due to human activities increasing heat-trapping greenhouse gas levels in Earth’s atmosphere, called global warming.

It has become clear that humans have contributed most of the past century’s warming by releasing heat-trapping gases as we power our modern lives called greenhouse gases.

Rising water temperature is caused by global warming. This increasing water temperature has severe consequences on the lives of aquatic animals.

Global warming causes acute damages to people, wildlife, and the environment. The vital minerals in the water evaporate due to high heat, eventually degrading the water quality.

7. Urban Development

Urban - Cambodia water pollution
Cityscape, Phnom Penh, Cambodia (source)

Urban areas pollute water in various ways. In recent years population and economy have been proliferating in Cambodia, which has increased urban growth.

The promising jobs and the wealth influences people to the city areas. There is much unmanaged and uncollected sewage that causes various hazards.

Groundwater and surface water are contaminated from garbage dumps, toxic waste and chemical storage, and intentional dumping of substances.

Urbanization multiplies air pollution leads to acid rain, nitrate deposition, which pollutes various water sources. 

Millions of people manipulate landscape waste material, dumping chemicals and fertilizers, withdrawing water for peoples’ uses.

8. The burning of fossil fuels

Fossil fuels are built of dead and decayed animal and plant matter. Fossil fuels are formed majorly from carbon, hydrogen, and nitrogen.

In 2014, fossil fuel energy consumption in Cambodia was 30.6 %. And when they are burnt in the air, they produce a tremendous amount of carbon dioxide, which deteriorates the air. 

The mixture of sulfur dioxide gases and the burning of fossil fuels causes acidic rainfall, which further contaminates the water sources and causes water pollution. This burning of fossil fuels also increases global warming.

9. Aquatic Dumping

aquatic dump - Cambodia water pollution
Canal dumping in Cambodia (source)

Aquatic dumping refers to sewage, waste chemicals, and garbage in the water. It is one of the most significant human concerns.

The dumped item takes a lot of time to decompose, varying from 2 weeks to 200 years! Aquatic dumping is life-threatening to sea animals, affecting the life cycle. 

The garbage dumped in the water source depletes oxygen levels, which causes poor marine health. The plastic we throw at the ocean can choke and kill the fishes as they think of it as food.

The misery of aquatic life is all our humans’ fault that marine life is in danger. Cambodia water is a ship that releases oil and other harmful substances, which has a deadly impact on aquatic life.

10. Rapid Population Growth

Although water covers over three-fourths of the Earth, the demand for freshwater increases day by day due to the increasing population.

The population needs more food, so various modern types of equipment like fertilizers have been used to meet the demand of humans. 

Due to infrastructure and tourism development, many people migrate towards the Tonle Sap Sub-area, an open environment.

Population pressure is the leading cause of pollution. The global population is anticipated to keep increasing in the upcoming years.

We only have limited resources, especially water, and will start to experience extreme water shortages, leading to instability in food production, industry, social order, and control.

The ruler area of Cambodia lacks proper sanitation, and the rapidly growing population worsens the environment.

Prevention of Water pollution 

It’s easier to blame pollution on the industries, but we have a good share in increasing water pollution. 

  1. We can reduce the use of plastic bags and reuse them. 
  2. We should properly dispose of oil, chemicals, and other non-biodegradable items.
  3. Properly maintain your car so that the oil and other chemicals are not leaking out.
  4. Turn off your tap when the water is not necessary.
  5. Spread awareness and speak up for clear water.
  6. Minimize the use of fertilizer and pesticides. Never dispose of these chemicals into a sanitary sewer or storm cause they end up at the river.

Wrapping up

Education and awareness can be essential measure that helps prevent water pollution in this 21st century. We all should be aware that life on Earth will suffer if water pollution continues.

Water pollution is a serious concern and needs immediate action as it is the most crucial means for survival for living beings.

(Last Updated on May 12, 2022 by Sadrish Dabadi)

Rishu Shakya, a bachelor’s degree graduate in Business Information Management, holds an extraordinary empathy towards mother nature and her ecosystem. She has always been captivated by green Earth and its charm. She regards spreading awareness about clean energy and sustainable development as her passion as well as responsibility. She believes her compassion about the Earth and human relationships will undoubtedly assist our planet to be a better place.