The Ministry of Environment – in collaboration with the Wildlife Conservation Society of Cambodia (WCS), the Pursat provincial administration, the Pursat provincial Department of Environment and relevant partners – held an August 4 workshop to explain “Sub-Decree 144 on the Bakan Grassland in the Tonle Sap Floodplain” to raise awareness among the public and encourage people to participate in diversity conservation.

The WCS said the sub-decree was a significant step in safeguarding critically threatened species like the Bengal florican and underscored Cambodia’s commitment to the global 30x30 conservation targets. Target 3, known colloquially as “30x30,” calls for 30 per cent of the world's terrestrial, inland water, and of coastal and marine areas, to be in effective protection and management by 2030.

It explained that the Bakan area spans 38,430ha, comparable to the combined area of the Galapagos Islands, and is vital to the ecosystem of the Tonle Sap.

The area is home to several endangered bird species such as the Bengal florican, the Manchurian reed-warbler, and the Chinese grassbird in Cambodia.

It took five years for the WCS and other stakeholders to advocate and facilitate the inclusion of the area into the protected areas, although the importance of the area’s ecosystem was first recognised in 2000.

In addition, the inclusion was delayed by the effects of the global Covid-19 pandemic.

During the last decade, the Tonle Sap area has faced problems of drastic land use that poses a threat to biodiversity. The Bakan grasslands are the last major natural floodplain habitat that needed protection in the southern part of the Tonle Sap Basin.

“Local communities play an important role in conserving the area. In addition, community participation was a crucial component in the inclusion of this area as a protected area. They continue to engage in traditional activities, while working to conserve the ecosystem, said the WSC.