Some fish breeders along Boeng Samrong lake in Prek Pnov district have ignored a ten-day deadline to remove their enclosures and artificial ponds.
On January 14, district authorities issued a statement that they decided to designate the 336-hectare lake as a reservoir as part of flood management plans in Phnom Penh and nearby provinces.
The statement said officials would be sent to rehabilitate parts of the lake which have become shallower following encroachments by people who dug up land surrounding it to create fish ponds.
“In order to process the restoration of the lake smoothly, the authorities require all residents to remove their fish breeding enclosures and ponds within ten days from the date this statement is issued,” it said.
Cheng Sovannara, 57, who owns a fish breeding enclosure, yesterday said he will protest and demand compensation when authorities come to remove his property.
“We will negotiate with them if they come to remove our fish breeding enclosure,” he said. “Ten days is very short because where can we sell our fish?”
“I can earn about $10,000 per year by selling fully-grown fish, so if we are required to catch them for sale immediately we will have to sell them for a low price and lose income because we have invested a lot of money to breed fish,” he added.
Mr Sovannara noted that nowadays a lot of fish is imported from Vietnam and local breeders can only sell between 20 to 30 kilograms daily in the market.
“We fish breeders have around 100 tonnes of fish, so how can we sell it all immediately,” he said. “It will take me more than a month to sell my fish.”
Sim Sophang, district administration chief, yesterday said that officials will start to restore Boeng Samrong lake today even if some villagers ignore the deadline to remove their fish breeding enclosures.
“Today is the deadline for them to remove their fish breeding enclosure by themselves,” he said. “We are going to work to restore the lake and if they do not remove them we are not responsible for damaging their belongings.”
“We are not bothered that some of the 200 families involved are not complying with our notice because thousands of families are supporting our efforts to restore the lake as a water reservoir,” Mr Sophang added.
He noted that some villagers have asked authorities to give them a year to stop breeding fish in the lake.
“We cannot accept their requests for the delay because we have to start rehabilitating the lake now,” Mr Sophang said. “We want to rehabilitate the natural lake as a water storage reservoir because right now it is becoming increasingly used to breed fish.”
“The country has the necessary laws so we will take action following the expiry of the deadline that we issued,” he added.
Mr Sophang said authorities will provide some compensation for fish fry that the breeders have just released into the lake but they must catch and sell their grown fish in the market.
Ngin Dy, chief of Phnom Penh Municipal Fisheries Department, said that there are about 200 fish breeding enclosures in the lake.
“Some people have caught their fish to sell and some haven’t done so yet,” he noted.