ENVIRONMENTAL damage caused by manmade reservoirs around the Tonle Sap lake could be almost as extensive in Siem Reap province as in Kampong Thom, say officials who pledged yesterday to continue an ongoing campaign to destroy them.
Chan Youttha, secretary general of the Tonle Sap Authority, said officials had dismantled 20 illegally built reservoirs in Siem Reap, Battambang, Pursat and Kampong Thom provinces between June 25 and yesterday.
He said an aerial inspection completed this week with Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology Lim Kean Hor had allowed a closer look at damage caused by the reservoirs.
“Thousands of hectares of flooded forests were devastated in Siem Reap,” he said.
Chan Youttha estimated that 27 unauthorised reservoirs in Siem Reap would be destroyed as part of the campaign.
Nao Thuok, director of the Fisheries Administration, said he believed damage to flooded forest areas had been more acute in Siem Reap than in any of the other provinces that surround the Tonle Sap except for Kampong Thom.
But he added that he could provide no estimates of the number of hectares of flooded forest that had been affected by the reservoirs.
Though they are important to farmers who depend on them for irrigation during the dry season, the reservoirs could potentially devastate natural ecosystems and traditional spawning areas for fish within two to three years if they are left unchecked, Chan Youttha said.
“If we do not begin to demolish the illegal reservoirs from now on, we will lose the flooded forests,” he said.
Earlier this month, Prime Minister Hun Sen ordered officials in six provinces to destroy or modify all illegal reservoirs lying within two designated zones around the Tonle Sap.