LOV Houeng Construction Co plans to spend US$8.6 million to develop an ecotourism site in Kandal province that will feature rice paddies and fish farms, provincial Governor Chhun Sirun told the Post Monday.
Nao Thuok, director general of the Fisheries Administration, said he believed work would begin on the project - which was approved by the government earlier this year - at some point before the end of 2009 and would take 20 years to complete.
The construction company received the rights to the land for 70 years as part of an environmental land concession. Lov Houeng, the head of the company, could not be reached for comment Monday.
An environmental impact assessment report on the company's plans, released in February, concluded that construction of the 7,600-hectare ecotourism site would pollute the Mekong River and damage animal habitats.
In addition, the assessment predicted villagers in four communes in three separate districts would lose the ability to supplement their incomes by fishing, and cutting and selling trees.
Nao Thuok said Monday that he did not think development of the site would cause considerable environmental damage because plans had been approved by the Ministry of Environment.
He said bamboo would be planted on 1,000 hectares, which he said would facilitate growth of the fish population.
"The bamboo will benefit fish a lot by giving them shelter where they can lay eggs," he said, adding that tourists would also benefit because the additional plants would "make the air fresh".
He said the construction company would be able to plant 120 bamboo plants on each of the 1,000 hectares.
The Council for the Development of Cambodia declined to comment on the ecotourism site.
The promotion of ecotourism has been a key pillar of the government's "Kingdom of Wonder" tourism campaign.
Thok Sokhom, deputy director of the international cooperation and the ASEAN department at the Ministry of Tourism, told the Post in October that ecotourism accounted for nearly one-third of all tourism in the Kingdom, adding that it was concentrated largely in the northeastern provinces.
"About 30 percent of the total number of tourists in the country [last year] went to the northeastern provinces to see dolphins, forests and ecotourism villages," he said. "The development of ecotourism in Cambodia has no limit," he added.