In a bid to improve environmental protection, the Agriculture Ministry yesterday urged provincial governors along coastal areas to maintain mangrove forests within their jurisdictions.
In a letter, Agriculture Minister Veng Sakhon informed the provincial governors of Kep, Preah Sihanouk and Koh Kong to be more attentive in preventing mangrove forests encroachment.
“Land is being cleared to make houses and mangrove forests are being fenced off for ownership,” Mr Sakhon said in the letter. “The issuance of land titles have been noticeably happening.”
“This practice of issuing land titles in mangrove forests is apparent in fishing communities such as ones in Preah Sihanouk province,” he added.
The letter did not detail how many hectares of mangrove forests have been encroached upon.
Preah Sihanouk Governor Yun Min yesterday said that officials are attempting to discourage the encroachment of mangrove forests by villagers.
“We are putting effort in to maintain mangrove forests. We want to protect fishing communities and arrest those who occupy protected land,” Mr Min said. “We previously received reports about illegal encroachments, but we have already resolved the issues.”
Mangrove forests and flooded coastal areas are essential components to support fish ecosystems. These ecosystems are fundamental to the livelihoods of millions of Cambodians and to the nation as a whole, said NGO Mangroves for the Future.
Last year, Prime Minister Hun Sen called on the Agriculture Ministry to do more to prevent land grabbing in the country’s endangered flooded forests.
Mr Hun Sen said encroachment risks wiping out fish populations that live in the waters around mangroves and flooded forests.
Om Savath, executive director of the Fisheries Action Coalition Team, yesterday said that he supports the directive to protect mangrove forests and stop land encroachment.
However, he noted that flowing investments into the Kingdom have made it difficult for the authorities to stop land grabbing.
“We saw the implementation of past regulations not being effective enough to curb the destruction of mangrove forests,” Mr Savath said.