Human Response to Environmental Change in Cambodia


Economic, Social, and Environmental Drivers of Rural to Urban Migration in the Lower Mekong River Basin of Cambodia

Alan Kolata and Sabina Shaikh 

Over the past thirty years, economic growth, demographic recovery, and environmental changes have fueled rural migration into the cities of Cambodia. Alan Kolata and Sabina Shaikh are expanding their data collection in the Mekong River Basin to analyze the effects of migration on the viability of traditional rural livelihoods and model the interpenetrating economic, social, and environmental drivers of migration from villages to urban centers like Phnom Penh.


Becoming Urban: Understanding the Urban Transformation of Migrants to Phnom Penh

Marco Garrido, Alan Kolata, Sabina Shaikh, Anni Beukes, Julio Postigo

This research seeks to document the process of becoming urban at a critical time in Cambodian history. Through traditional and distributed ethnographic methods, our team will explore the lived experiences of migrants from rural villages to urban centers; the economic, environmental and social factors that drove the decision to migrate; and the changing connections to place, space and people that result from becoming urban.

Funding and awards:

  • Neubauer Collegium, University of Chicago, University of Chicago 2020-2023
  • Center for International Social Science Research, University of Chicago. 2020-2021 

Human Response to Environmental Change in the Lower Mekong River Basin

Alan Kolata and Sabina Shaikh

Millions of people in Southeast Asia depend on the Mekong River’s fluctuating water regime, but the construction of power facilities, climate change, and new forms of land use have made the Mekong Basin a hotbed of rapid environmental transformation. Kolata and Shaikh, along with a team of geographers and engineers, will travel to Cambodia and use a range of methods to collect data on how social norms and cultural practices shape human responses to environmental change.

Funding and awards:

Integrative Modeling of the Interactions, Connectivity and Interdependence of Water Systems and Ecosystem Services in the Lower Mekong Basin

Michael Binford, John Felkner, Alan Kolata, Sabina Shaikh

This research developed scenarios and integrative models needed to confront the problem of how to ensure water sustainability in a region facing ongoing changes in land use and hydrological management. Funding from NSF was used to establish a multi-disciplinary research team and collaborative partners to develop a framework for the integrative modeling of Mekong River basin hydrology, the physical measurement of ecosystem services and the human dependence and impact on the water system. Through the assembled team experts, the research addressed the multiple dimensions of ecosystem services including the provision, adaptation, valuation and response mechanisms.

Funding and awards:

National Science Foundation: Water Sustainability and Climate Program, 2012-16.