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El Nino fire warning issued

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A Ministry of Environment ranger surveys the charred remains of the flooded forest that once surrounded Prek Toal village in Battambang province. The Ministry of Environment issues a statement on preventing forest fires in natural protected areas and biodiversity conservation corridors on Monday. Hong Menea

El Nino fire warning issued

The Ministry of Environment issued a statement on Monday on preventing forest fires in natural protected areas and biodiversity conservation corridors.

The statement, which cited a government directive on water preservation from last Thursday, said Cambodian weather is set to be heavily influenced by the El Nino-Southern Oscillation, a weather event involving a cycle of warm and cold temperatures impacting the tropics and subtropics.

During El Nino, temperatures can rise to highs of 42 degrees Celsius, with very little rain. This will result in the government issuing a cautionary statement on Thursday which raised concerns about the possibility of a drought in the Kingdom in April and May.

The ministry’s statement said as a result of the extreme heat and dryness, there will be an increased risk of forest fires from natural causes and human activity.

It said forest fires frequently occurred in natural protected areas and biodiversity conservation corridors every year.

Through the statement, the ministry hoped to educate all organisations, ministries and sub-national authorities about the heightened dangers of forest fires during the El Nino period.

Ministry spokesperson Neth Pheaktra told The Post on Monday that the ministry was ramping up efforts to prevent forest fires this year.

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Flooded forests burning at the Prek Toal bird sanctuary in Battambang Province in 2016. Alessandro Marazzi Sassoon

“We need to be careful because this year’s extra high temperatures, along with the especially dry climate, will make it easier to cause wildfires by accident when people burn waste in natural protected areas,” he said.

The main cause of forest fires in the dry season is illegal forest land clearing to grow agricultural crops, as well as people starting forest fires to catch wildlife.

The statement issued six guiding directives to prevent wildfires for sub-national authorities and local communities to follow, including cautiousness when using fire to harvest crops and catch animals.

The ministry’s statement also prohibited any acts that violate Article 62 of the Law on Natural Protected Areas, including forest clearing, burning and destruction.

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