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Reservoirs to be destroyed

The Tonle Sap Authority is preparing to resume destruction of small reservoirs it has declared illegal in order to ensure the sustainability of the Tonle Sap lake as a natural resource, its secretary general said yesterday.

Chan Yutha, secretary general of the Tonle Sap Authority, said he had sent a group of experts to examine the condition of the soil around the reservoirs to determine whether officials will be able to carry out their operations, which depend on the use of heavy vehicles.

He said they will start to demolish the reservoirs “immediately” if conditions allow.

“This year, we plan to destroy and technically fix 78 illegal water reservoirs,” Chan Yutha said, adding that some reservoirs can be turned into irrigation systems.

In 2009, the Tonle Sap Authority found 240 illegal water reservoirs in sizes ranging from 450 metres by 720 metres, to up to three square kilometres.

The pools of water, which the Authority has said are manmade and are used to trap fish and boost rice yields, exist primarily in Kampong Thom and Siem Reap provinces.

The reservoirs have also been found in four other provinces surrounding the lake: Banteay Meanchey, Battambang, Pursat and Kampong Chhnang.

Last year, Prime Minister Hun Sen ordered the Authority to destroy the reservoirs “without exception” in order to preserve the biodiversity of the region and ensure sustainable production from its rich natural resources.

Starting in late May, officials demolished 30 reservoirs and transformed four others into irrigation systems.

Um Men, director of a community fishery in Kampong Thom province’s Phat Sanday commune, which lies in Kampong Svay district, said some people had been using the illegal reservoirs to farm in the dry season.

He also warned of the policy’s effects on fishermen.

“If the Tonle Sap Authority destroys those illegal water reservoirs, fishery production will be lower and the dense forests surrounding the area could not expand,” Um Men said.

Cheng Nal, director of the agriculture office in Kampong Thom’s Santuk district, admitted that most farmers continue to dry-season farm even in prohibited areas.

Paddy rice farmers, he said, would harvest later this month.

Cheat Sisovatha, director of the Kampong Thom provincial department of water resources, said his team would begin destroying illegal water reservoirs later this month.

“There are about 10 illegal water reservoirs in area three of Kampong Thom province that have not been demolished,” he said.

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