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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Ecotourism project looks to lure visitors to isolated Mondulkiri

Ecotourism project looks to lure visitors to isolated Mondulkiri

Local company plans to sink US$6 million into 100-hectare site around

Bou Sra waterfall, but rights groups remain sceptical about its impact

A CAMBODIAN infrastructure group, Sar Lar Co, has plans to develop the area around Mondulkiri's Bou Sra waterfall in a bid to bring more tourists to the isolated province.

But while provincial officials are pleased with the influx of cash, others question whether local communities will benefit from the project.

"If the company has good policies to deal with the community, there will not be a problem; but if the company does not discuss the project with local people, they will not be happy," said Sam Sarun, deputy director of the provincial Department of Tourism, adding that whether local communities will gain from the development is the "big question" for them.

Sam Sarin, coordinator for Cambodian rights group Adhoc in Mondulkiri province, warned that residents there had been disappointed in the past when there were no employment opportunities for community members.

But company officials say the development will provide a huge boost for the area, tapping into the ecotourism potential of one of Cambodia's most wild areas.

"We will construct motels, restaurants, souvenir shops, cable cars, cottages," Ngin Sreoun, deputy director general of Sar Lar Co told the Post, adding that the company has received a 99-year lease from the government.

"We aren't cutting down forests for the development; we are preserving the area as an ecological and charming attraction," he said, adding that the project would create about 100 jobs for ethnic minorities in the province.

Sam Sarun welcomed the investment plan as a way to draw attention to the province.

"It will be a modern tourism facility. ... The project development is very big so I hope that it will attract a lot of local and foreign tourists," he said.

Construction began Monday and is expected take up to five years to complete, company officials said.

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