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Banteay Meanchey eyes mountains as potential natural heritage areas

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Preah Netr Preah Mountain in Preah Netr Preah district. Environment Ministry

Banteay Meanchey eyes mountains as potential natural heritage areas

Banteay Meanchey Provincial authorities are studying nine mountains in Malai, Preah Netr Preah, and Mongkol Borei districts, including Sisophon town, with the intention of listing them as natural heritage sites once the study is complete and a number of details have been settled.

Malai district governor Dieb Chhuon told The Post in December that local authorities had held meetings with the residents of villages and communes in those areas to discuss their plans.

As an initial step the meeting participants had agreed to settle on official names for any mountains that bore names that were already being used at other heritage sites and would therefore have to be officially renamed as part of the process.

“We have to change what we call certain mountains for them to become registered as heritage sites. For example, a certain mountain [here] is called Deka Mountain.

“In fact, this Deka Mountain, starting from back in ancient times, was always called by a different name. During the war years some soldiers decided to name the mountain Deka, but that’s incorrect.

“So, we have to change it to its original name, which is Kampoul Bay Mountain,” he said.

Chhuon further added that Boeung Beng Mountain would have to be renamed Mountain Teuk Chenh.

Malai Mountain (also known as Rang Mountain), Veng Mountain and Kbal Damrei Mountain will not have to be renamed. Those mountains are all located in Malai district.

Chhuon said that local citizens and officials, as well as environmental specialists, were going to study each site to determine a proper boundary to it.

They will try to retain any existing boundaries that would have an effect on anyone’s livelihood if it were to be change today.

Moeurn Samuy, deputy head of the community development office in Banteay Meanchey, said that there are additionally two other mountains in Preah Netr Preah district that they will need to settle on new names for – Chrok Mountain and Sreh Mountain in the Preah Netr Preah and Chup Vary communes, respectively.

There are some small mountains in Mongkol Borei district that will also need to be renamed.

In particular, there is a mountain called Kong Va in Sisophon town that will need a new name since it bears the same name as the more famous mountain in Kampong Chhnang province.

To the people of Sisophon town, perhaps it has always been Kong Va Mountain, or perhaps not, but either way in order for it to be designated as a natural heritage site without causing any unnecessary confusion, it will need a new identity, at least on official documents and maps.

“We have three districts and one town with nine mountains between them covering 1,660ha that we are primarily interested in designating as important to our cultural heritage,” he said.

Samuy added that including these mountains as cultural and natural heritage sites is part of the government’s strategy to protect the environment and natural resources in a sustainable manner so that they still exist for future generations to enjoy.

These mountains are all valued highly in terms of their importance to local history and culture in addition to their value as wildlife habitat for conservation purposes given their biodiversity.

These mountains have always provided for the people living in their shadows. Today, they continue to do so by raising the standard of living for those people by boosting tourism which brings money and investment to their local economies.

“To put it simply, this is natural wealth that belongs to every Cambodian and not to any one individual,” he said.

Samuy stated that as of May 25, Banteay Meanchey province had designated six of the nine mountains as natural heritage sites: Preah Mountain (Veng Mountain); Yeay Sam Mountain; Bak Mountain; Chonhchaing Mountain; Svay Mountain and Preah Netr Preah Mountain.

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