The grassroots concerns of residents living along the Tonle Sap lake were at odds with the organiser’s focus on lofty climate change initiatives at a high-level policy workshop in Phnom Penh yesterday.
The one-day event hosted by Conservation International and the Fisheries Administration aimed to discuss climate change and its effect on the Kingdom’s heart – Tonle Sap lake – with an emphasis on fishery reform and land use planning.
Issues of fishing in the Tonle Sap have reached fever pitch with three recent conservation sub-decrees including a permanent ban on 35 fishing lots surrounding the lake – and grassroots workers saying the sub-decrees are actually harming the local fishing interests they aimed to protect.
“For more than 100 years the legal system [in Cambodia] has already sustained both the livelihood of the people there and the natural resources,” said attendee Thol Dina of the University of Tokyo’s Graduate School of Frontier Sciences. “So to me I just wonder why [the interest in restricting fishing practices] is so quick.”
No independent research has been conducted on environmental concerns surrounding the Tonle Sap, according to Dr Kao Sochivi, deputy director general of the Fisheries Administration.
“Actually right now in the government authority we are just starting this activity for the climate change response,” said Dr Sochivi.
“We hope by the end of this year we will have the final draft and we start to implement based on what we have researched.”
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