OFFICIALS in Banteay Meanchey province have destroyed one illegal reservoir and plan to get rid of two more, bringing to five the number of provinces affected by a crackdown ordered by Prime Minister Hun Sen.
Yim Bun Rom, director of the provincial Department of Water Resources and Meteorology, said yesterday that the reservoir had been destroyed at some point after Hun Sen’s July 2 order.
Officials in all six provinces around the Tonle Sap lake have been told to destroy or modify illegal reservoirs lying within two designated zones in order to safeguard the region’s biodiversity.
He added, however, that rain had blocked their plans to destroy the other two. “We plan to destroy three illegal reservoirs, but we have only been able to demolish one because of a muddy road,” he said.
Nuon Krisna, director of the Department of Water Resources and Meteorology in Siem Reap province, said rain there had also delayed plans to destroy reservoirs. Of 27 marked for demolition, he said, only six had been destroyed as of yesterday.
“If it was not raining, we would be able to destroy the illegal reservoirs faster than we are,” he said.
Chan Youttha, general secretary of the Tonle Sap Lake Authority, said that as of yesterday officials had demolished a total of 26 illegal reservoirs in the areas surrounding the Tonle Sap lake – 16 in Kampong Thom, six in Siem Reap, two in Battambang, one in Pursat and one in Banteay Meanchey.
He said earlier this month that 243 reservoirs had been slated for demolition. Farmers say that they will suffer without the reservoirs, which are credited with boosting rice yields. But officials have expressed concern about the negative effects the reservoirs can have on fish stocks and flooded forests.
Chan Youttha said short-term benefits for farmers should not distract from long-term environmental harm caused by the reservoirs.
“Our wonderful lake will be shallow in three or four years, and the fish, waterbirds and other species will be extinct if we do not demolish the illegal reservoirs,” he said.
He acknowledged, though, that “some farmers and authorities confirmed they have harvested between 5 and 8 tonnes of rice per hectare from the water supplied by the reservoirs”.