ENVIRONMENT Department officials in Pursat province said Tuesday that a fire that started on May 14 and burned for nine straight days destroyed 200 hectares of mangrove community forest.
Ros Marady, head of wetlands control at the Pursat Environment Department, said the fire had not been extinguished until this past Sunday because officials had lacked access to water in the forest, located in Kandieng district’s Raing Tis village. He added that the blaze was the most destructive he had ever seen.
“A total of 200 hectares of mangrove community forest were destroyed completely,” he said. “We could not put out the fire because there is no water.”
[Pursat officials] could not put out the fire because there is no water.
He said officials believe the fire was caused by hunters who entered the forest to set up traps for turtles and snakes. No arrests have been made, and Ros Marady said officials were still working to identify suspects.
“The forest fire destroyed some villagers’ crops but did not cause any injuries or destroy any homes,” he said. “We will request baby trees from the government to plant in the forest, and educate people how to protect the forest.”
Fisherman Long Sichet, who lives in the village, on Tuesday expressed concern that the fire could result in depleted fish stocks as well as flooding.
“Most of the water species died. Next year, there will be a decline in fish numbers,” he said. “People should not burn the forest, because our lives depend on it.”
Ek Chamroeun, a coordinator for the NGO Fisheries Action Coalition Team (FACT), called on local authorities to “take action” and punish whoever started the fire.
“And I will take action and ask villagers living in the area to replant baby trees, but we do not have the trees yet, which is a concern,” he said.
Keo Vy, cabinet chief of the National Centre for Disaster Management, said that fires had destroyed more than 1,000 hectares of protected forest areas during the first three months of the year: 950 in Pailin province, 50 in Siem Reap province and five in Kampot province.