Three New Protected Areas Listed
The government on Tuesday created three more protected areas covering nearly 28,000 hectares to be under Environment Ministry control, according to a ministry statement yesterday.
The statement announced the creation of a national park on Koh Rong island covering 2,655.35 hectares and Prek Tub lake as a conservation area covering 16.3 hectares – both in Preah Sihanouk province – and Tbeng Mountain as a heritage area covering 25,269.41 hectares in Preah Vihear province.
“In total, there are 45 protected areas, covering 5,902,444.06 hectares which are under the control of the Ministry of Environment,” the statement said, adding that the ministry was studying areas that have natural tourism, cultural and historic potential to be protected areas.
“Marking Koh Rong island as a national park and Boeung Prek Tub lake as a conservation area to ensure maintenance and protect the natural beauty, culture, ecology and biodiversity in those areas,” the statement said, urging public and local communities to conserve and protect natural resources.
“Marking Tbeng Mountain as a heritage area in order to protect the ecological system for future generations, protect natural aesthetics and natural value,” said the statement, adding that the area would offer opportunities for education, scientific study and tourism. The activities would not threaten the environment and local culture, it said.
In 2008, the government granted the right to develop Koh Rong to the Royal Group, which started clearing land last year in preparation for the construction of its luxury Royal Sands resort.
Environment Ministry spokesman Srun Darith told Khmer Times that his ministry was working to determine which part of the island should be protected and which part should be cut from development if it impacted villagers.
Mr. Darith said the ministry would cut the Royal Group’s development land and villagers’ land from the protected area after a plan was formulated.
“If the villagers’ occupation is legal, we will cut land for them,” he said, adding that the ministry would not assist villagers if they were found to be illegally occupying the land.
“The most important thing is that we build a fence first to protect those areas,” said Mr. Darith, who added that it would prevent land grabbing, deforestation and destruction of natural resources in the protected area.
Mr. Darith also said the Environment Ministry is studying 15 areas across the Kingdom to potentially mark as protected areas. The ministry is also preparing to ask the government to mark Srang Mountain in Kampong Speu province as a protected area.
Tek Vannara, the executive director of the NGO Forum on Cambodia, said: “It is very important to mark significant areas as protected areas.”
He asked the government and the Environment Ministry to recruit more park rangers and officials to work with local communities to protect those areas efficiently, adding that the government should increase the budget to make that happen.
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