Rapid economic growth and industrial development

Cambodia has approximately 15 million inhabitants and most of them are farmers and fishermen depending directly on the natural resource base for their livelihood. The integrity of the Mekong river basin’s ecology is thus vital to the social, cultural and economic well-being of a large part of the population. The rapid economic growth and industrial development coupled with growing population pressure are however degrading at an increasing rate the environment, and in particular the water resources of the country.

While one third of the population in working age is active in agriculture, one third is employed in industry related activities. Tourism and garment industries are important in Cambodia, but other industries such as mining, construction, and cement are also well established and have negative impacts on the Mekong river basin that includes most of Cambodia.

UNIDO has developed the “Transfer of Environmentally Sound Technology (TEST) methodology” to address similar pollution problems to Cambodia in five countries (Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia) situated along the Danube river basin.

This approach was successfully implemented between 2001 and 2004 under the Danube-TEST project. The project was very successful in targeting 17 large industrial polluters and by helping them reduce their impact on the river basin and in building national capacities in order to replicate and scale up the approach to a larger number of other sites. TEST projects are also currently implemented in the southern Mediterranean countries of Morocco, Tunisia, and Egypt (MED-TEST), and in Central America (Honduras and Mexico).

The previous success of the TEST integrated approach in other project makes it proven methodology to reduce the impact of industrial pollution on the Mekong River basin and thus improve the water quality and ecology of the river system.