Officials of the Fisheries Administration’s (FiA) Preah Sihanouk provincial cantonment plan to replant at least 10,000 mangrove trees by the end of the year. The saplings will be used to replenish degraded an​d deforested areas of fishery communities.

Cantonment director Em Phea told The Post on June 27 that the planting would be carried out in all of the affected communities in the province.

He said replanting operations were ongoing. On June 25, officials from the provincial administration had just planted 7,000 mangrove trees in Champour Khmao village of Prey Nop district’s Tuol Totoeng commune.

Phea added that during the planting, provincial deputy governor Kong Vitanak urged cantonment officials and all stakeholders – especially local authorities – to support conservation. He added that they should not hesitate to prosecute anyone who destroyed mangrove forest or clear flooded forest land for personal use.

He said that after receiving this additional push, his officials would step up their patrols and increase the coverage of the educational programmes they ran in the communities. These programmes encouraged the public to participate in the protection of mangrove forests, an important resource.

“We will reach out to the community in the area and teach them to protect and care for the mangrove forests. Naturally, in my professional capacity, I will continue to investigate any forest crimes I discover,” he said.

He added that so far this year, the administration has grown more than 60,000 seedlings to support replanting operations in Prey Nop district.

He said that in the first six months of the year, officials planted 3,600 mangrove trees on 5ha of land in the district and Koh Rong town.

According to a report from Nen Chamroeun, director of the provincial department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, his officials grew 5,500 mangrove tree seedlings in Prey Nop and Koh Rong district in 2021, of which more than 4,000 were planted on 4.5ha.

Chamroeun urged the fisheries administration to continue its replanting operations.

The department was also striving to prevent the forests’ destruction by criminals, in order to protect them for the benefit of the public.

Sok Sokhom, director of the NGO Cambodian National Research Organisation, said on June 27 that replanting was a good thing, but without additional measures, the forests would not be protected.

As a monitor of coastal land and mangrove encroachment, Sokhom wanted stronger preventative measures, similar to the efforts that were being made to protect the flooded forests of the Tonle Sap Lake.

“We plant only in degraded places, but what about the established forests where people have set up border marker posts? If we don’t act quickly, the land will be occupied. Some of them even claim to have ownership documentation from the authorities,” he added.

In response, Em Phea claimed that the cantonment was not neglecting its duties, and that it patrolled regularly to prevent incursions.

He said some land with border posts and mangrove forest was privately owned. If the owners had the correct documentation, they were certainly allowed to clear their own land, he added.