An EU Delegation to Cambodia and representatives from several EU Member States (Germany, France and Hungary) undertook a two-day field visit to the Tonle Sap Biodiversity Reserve on January 30-31 in Siem Reap province.

The visit was part of the EU’s global “#ForOurPlanet” campaign to promote environmental sustainability. The visit was led by Minister of Environment Eang Sophalleth, EU ambassador Igor Driesmans and German ambassador Stefan Messerer. 

“The visit offered an intimate look into biodiversity conservation, forestry protection, and environmental sustainability – a testament to the broader EU #ForOurPlanet campaign echoing its commitment to environmental sustainability worldwide,” said a January 31 joint press release from the environment ministry, the EU Delegation and the German embassy.

“The Tonle Sap Biosphere Reserve is a globally significant wetland ecosystem in Cambodia, and harbours a wide variety of flora and fauna. It is a lifeline that contributes to the daily needs of local communities,” it added.

As they visited the Tonle Sap region, participants learned about its rich biodiversity and unique ecological landscape. 

They observed waterbirds at the Prek Toal Ramsar site and met with local communities and authorities to discuss preserving the lake’s biodiversity, advancing sustainable forestry practices, and protecting the livelihoods of the local populace.

The tour party was guided by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) to project locations of the EU-funded “Our Tonle Sap” project, where the group was offered information about the challenges and achievements of conservation efforts, sustainable resource management, and community involvement in environmental preservation.

“The #ForOurPlanet campaign reflects the EU’s profound commitment to safeguarding our planet. Today’s visit to Tonle Sap Biodiversity Reserve is a testament to our active engagement in preserving biodiversity, promoting sustainable practices, and supporting local communities in Cambodia. 

“Together with the NGO’s and CSO’s implementing our various projects, our member states and the government of Cambodia, our collective action aims to ensure that ecosystems, communities, and biodiversity are resilient to rapid environmental changes in the Tonle Sap Biosphere Reserve,” said Driesmans.

“Germany provides considerable funds to improve the income generation of the local communities in the Prek Toal and Stung Treng ramsar sites. 

“This is important in order to protect biodiversity and ecosystems along the Mekong. I think all transboundary water cooperation projects supported by the Mekong River Commission (MRC) are of imminent importance,” added Messerer.

Sophalleth urged the promotion of conservation, community engagement and empowerment, research and development, sound scientific policy and climate resilience. 

“Through continued conservation efforts and these approaches, we will safeguard biodiversity, ensure food security for millions, and preserve the ecological balance of this unique wetland. 

“I strongly hope that our actions here today at Prek Toal will have a positive impact on the conservation and protection of flooded forests and the Tonle Sap Lake as a whole, to secure the future of the Tonle Sap Lake and its irreplaceable ecological web. In addition, I hope that such action will actively spread across our country,” he said.