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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Conservation project crawls

Conservation project crawls

A workshop on the future of the Tonle Sap heard that a donor-funded conservation

project will need better participation from commune councils if it is to

succeed.

Other problems highlighted at the April 8 meeting were the

effect of increased population pressures as more people move to the lake, and a

low level of awareness of the importance of the project.

Khieu Muth,

director-general at the Ministry of the Environment, stressed the importance of

tying in the project with the plans of commune councils in the conservation

zones.

"The project should integrate with community development

policies," he said. "The commune councils' plans must consider how to develop

their socio-economic needs in conjunction with the environment."

Poverty

alleviation was also key, he said, since poverty was the enemy of environment

preservation. Those with enough food had more incentive to protect their

environment.

Participants also discussed the thorny issue of who should

have control over the $15 million in project funding. Donors approved the money

in 1999, but it will only be released once the advisory committee finishes its

conservation document.

Ung Hokly from the Ministry of Agriculture,

Forestry and Fisheries said the ADB's $12 million loan should be under the

control of the fisheries department, while the $3 million UNDP grant should be

managed by the Cambodian National Mekong Committee.

Others suggested the

participants should concern themselves with moving forward with the project plan

rather than pointing fingers or trying to exercise control over the

budget.

"Today we must work together to develop our resources in the

Tonle Sap as soon as possible," said Ros Sirakhemarath, director of a human

resources NGO in Kampong Chhnang. "We are also responsible for what we are

working on."

Long Kon from the Department of Fisheries said the burden of

an increasing population would affect the resources of the Tonle Sap, the

richest freshwater fishing ground in the world.

He said more villagers

were moving to the area every year, particularly during the fishing season. Once

there, they cleared forest flood land for agriculture.

"If we do not

prevent the migration of the people to the Tonle Sap, we will be unable to

conserve the area's natural resources," said Kon.

Ouk Sithan, deputy

director-general at the Ministry of Tourism, said the Tonle Sap had many uses,

not least the potential for eco-tourism. He called for recommendations from

conservationists on how to promote eco-tourism without damaging the lake's

environment or natural resources.

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