Fifty-one families living in a sub-village within the Stung Sen Ramsar site in Kampong Thom province’s Kampong Svay district are requesting that the Ministry of Environment and relevant authorities designate the area as being community protected.

Ramsar sites such as Cambodia’s Stung Sen are protected wetland habitats established by the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands international treaty, so-named because it was originally signed in Ramsar, Iran, back in 1971.

The request that the area be designated as community protected will be made through the coordinating efforts of NatureLife Cambodia – a national conservation organisation established with support from BirdLife International and financial support from the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund.

NatureLife Cambodia CEO Bou Vorsak told The Post on September 22 that his organisation and the local authorities had disseminated guidelines for the establishment of community protected areas to the people living there in August and facilitated small-group discussions.

He said that after the briefings and discussions, a total of 51 families – or 87 per cent of the families living in the area – voted in favour of applying for the establishment of a community protected area covering around 1,000ha in size.

“Next we will send signed and fingerprinted community development applications to stakeholders such as the commune, district and provincial authorities including the provincial environment department and the Ministry of Environment to request they examine the possibility of establishing community protected status in the Stung Sen Ramsar site,” he said.

He noted that the exact location would be in Tuol Neang Sav village of Kampong Svay district’s Phat Sanday commune.

Vorsak said the site is rich in spawning fish such as Mekong giant catfish and giant barb and that it covers the flooded forest area of the Tonle Sap Lake in Kampong Svay district consisting of more than 10,000ha and five villages. So far, however, the only community protected area designated there is Toul Neang Sao.

He said the establishment of a new community protected area will promote the sustainable use of natural resources by encouraging the participation of people in the community to protect those resources and prevent various natural resource crimes from occurring there.

Provincial environment department director Tob Kakada said on September 22 that the establishment of a new protected area needs to be studied in more detail and discussed further with the people living in the community.

He said the study must also take into account the existence of the Tuol Neang Sao community protected area in order to avoid duplicating the efforts already in place there.

“I have not yet seen the documents requesting establishment yet. We already have the Tuol Neang Sao community, which covers an area of about 9,000ha in the Ramsar site. So if you want to create another community, you have to think things through and plan it so that there isn’t any problem with duplication or overlap,” he said.

According to NatureLife Cambodia, environment ministry rangers, Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS Cambodia) and Birdlife International Cambodia have all documented more than 60 endangered species present during the rainy season within the Stung Sen Ramsar site and the Boeung Chhmar area in the province.

At the beginning of each rainy season, they said many species of birds migrate to the Stung Sen Ramsar site because it is a rich feeding ground. When the water recedes and the food goes with it, they migrate to forage elsewhere.

For example, in recent years around 40 spot-billed pelicans – with a species conservation status of near-threatened amid declining population numbers – have been appearing in these protected wetlands each rainy season, along with dozens of other endangered species that also rely on it for continued survival.