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Battle over mangrove sees SEZ trump NGO

Authorities inspect a construction site in Preah Sihanouk province in February after discovering hectares of mangrove forest had been filled in with soil. Photo supplied
Authorities inspect a construction site in Preah Sihanouk province in February after discovering hectares of mangrove forest had been filled in with soil. Photo supplied

Battle over mangrove sees SEZ trump NGO

A special economic zone developer will be allowed to continue bulldozing a mangrove forest in Preah Sihanouk province’s Teuk Thla commune, the provincial governor said yesterday.

Civil society groups had persuaded the provincial Fisheries Administration to ask the governor to protect the ecosystem, which is important for fish breeding.

But the governor said the Bin Hai Special Economic Zone, currently under construction by tycoon Hean Kheang, has a legitimate land title and the area is no longer state property.

“They have the land title and they asked for the development and we cannot stop them,” Governor Yon Min said yesterday.

Bin Hai and its owner could not be reached for comment.

According to a statement by the provincial fisheries office, 1,000 hectares of mangrove forest have been provided to the SEZ to develop. The call to protect the area came from the NGO Cambodia National Research Organisation, its director Sok Sokhom said yesterday.

Unchecked development in mangrove forests decreases fish populations “exponentially”, which spreads poverty through nearby communities, according to Alex Gonzalez-Davidson, founder of environmental advocacy group Mother Nature.

Kao Dana, director of the forestry management office at the Forestry Administration, said mangroves are especially vulnerable this year. Wildfires have decimated thousands of hectares of flooded forests as their waters recede due to drought.

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