THREE reservoirs near the Tonle Sap lake in Kampong Thom province have been demolished after their owners ignored an order to remove them by last Friday, the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology said Sunday.
“We used 18 excavators to demolish three illegal reservoirs in the forest areas of the Tonle Sap lake, and each reservoir was about 3.5 square kilometeres,” ministry spokesman Chan Yutha said.
Prime Minister Hun Sen in April ordered the destruction of all reservoirs near the lake, saying they caused long-term environmental damage, primarily to forests and fish stocks. Farmers have argued that they need the reservoirs to boost crop yields.
Last week, Chan Yutha said 30 reservoirs in Kampong Thom were slated for destruction if their owners failed to remove them by the Friday deadline. On Sunday, he said the three reservoirs that were closest to the lake were destroyed over the weekend, and that the remaining ones would soon be destroyed.
Nao Thuok, director general of the Fisheries Administration, said Sunday that illegal reservoirs had devastated around 100,000 hectares of forest surrounding the lake, in addition to depleting fish stocks and damaging the ecosystem.
“We must demolish the illegal reservoirs to protect Tonle Sap lake, including the forest and the environment in and around the lakeside,” he said.
He added that the farmers who built the reservoirs had done so without official permission.
But Saom Sophat, deputy governor of Kampong Thom, said farmers were dependent on the reservoirs, some of which, he said, were built both before and during the Khmer Rouge regime.
“Most of these farmers cultivate their rice during the dry season, and they rely on these reservoirs that were constructed before the genocide,” he said.