THE Ministry of Water Resources has sent Prime Minister Hun Sen a list of names of district governors and commune chiefs suspected of using illicit means to secure the approval of reservoirs believed to be devastating the Tonle Sap lake.
Speaking at a meeting at the Tonle Sap Authority building in Phnom Penh yesterday, Minister Lim Kean Hor said many local authorities had conspired to register reservoirs funded by businessmen in the names of farmers permitted to construct them, and then taken a cut of the profits stemming from resulting fish catches.
“We have reported and sent a list of names to Prime Minister Hun Sen, for him to consider and decide the appropriate measures to take,” he said. “My officials and I are just implementing the orders of the premier.”
In April, the Tonle Sap Authority received orders from Hun Sen to destroy all manmade reservoirs surrounding the lake, including in regions 2 and 3, which are classified as protected flooded forest areas.
A total of 239 illegal reservoirs were marked for destruction in the two regions, which span six provinces: Kampong Thom, Siem Reap, Banteay Meanchey, Battambang, Pursat and Kampong Chhnang.
Lim Kean Hor – who is also president of the Tonle Sap Authority – said a total of 45 reservoirs in the two regions had been destroyed since June 25.
“Despite the wet season hindering our implementation of the destruction of the reservoirs, and even though we decided to stop demolishing them temporarily, we still monitor this issue every day,” he said.
“Nearly 10,000 hectares of flooded forest in the wetlands area around the lake have been lost each year to make way for the reservoirs, agriculture land expansion, to barricade fishing lots and to promote charcoal trade.”
The meeting also provided a forum for officials to express concern about low water levels.
“Our lake will be shallow soon if we do not take timely measures to prevent it,” said Deputy Prime Minister Yim Chhay Ly. “The lake is the main economic, environmental and cultural pulse of Cambodia.”
He said water levels in the Tonle Sap were at “normal levels”, but that the Mekong River was down by roughly 3 metres compared to the same time last year, which would affect water flows in the lake.
But he also emphasised that the Cambodian People’s Party “must recognise what we have done”, as party officials – including commune chiefs and district governors – signed the documents to “approve” the building of illegal reservoirs.
“No one else has destroyed the flooded forests to make way for reservoirs,” he said.
“They are from our [the CPP’s] collection.”
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY VENG RACHANA