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Ministry approves protected area status for Yeak Laom Lake in Ratanakkiri

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Yeak Laom Lake in Ratanakkiri province. The Ministry of Environment has approved the registration of the Yeak Laom Lake community natural protected area. VOUN DARA

Ministry approves protected area status for Yeak Laom Lake in Ratanakkiri

The Ministry of Environment on Friday approved the registration of the Yeak Laom Lake community natural protected area in Ratanakkiri province to support the preservation of natural resources, culture and eco-tourism.

The indigenous community hailed the decision, but said it had come too late to save a chunk of the forest that has already been lost and requested that relevant institutions recognise the magnitude of the issue.

Khieu Borin, the head of the ministry’s General Department of Local Communities, announced Yeak Loam Lake’s recognition in Banlung town.

He thanked local communities for participating with the Ministry of Environment to protect the natural area, which he said had played a crucial role in reducing reliance on produce from the forest, preventing illegal wildlife hunting and promoting a culture of eco-tourism.

The ministry has officially changed the area’s name from “Yeak Loam forest community” to “Yeak Laom Lake community natural protected area”.

The community was established in 1998 with the support of the Seila programme and with the participation of residents from five local villages – Chry, Labo, Sil, Lorn and Phnom – comprising some 637 families and 387ha of land.

Indigenous community representative Kroeung Tola applauded the decision to grant Yeak Laom Lake its new protected area status, but said many natural resources had already been lost.

“I am still happy at the recognition of the community, even though it’s overdue. I urge all relevant ministries make the protection of natural resources their main priority. If we allow areas rich in natural resources to become economic land concessions, neither the state nor the people will benefit."

“Each hectare of state concession land fetches $1 a year, but private companies benefit a great deal. Companies benefit doubly from non-timber forest products in the area and from profits on the sale of rubber tapped from trees – while the people gain nothing from economic land concessions,” he said.

Addressing the clearing of provincial forest land and natural resources, Tola observed that encroachments have not stopped, despite repeated calls to bring an end to the practice.

“We keep shouting about it, but the destruction of natural resources continue. If it keeps up like this, sooner or later there will be no more forest,” he said.

Deputy provincial governor Nhem Sam Oeun told The Post on Sunday that the Yeak Laom Lake community natural protected area is extremely important to the provincial administration. He said it must be taken care of so that no further natural resources are lost and added that the authority must oversee the re-planting of trees.

“The community is significant for its natural resources and for eco-tourism. If our Yeak Laom Lake continues to be logged and construction keeps taking place, then it will lose its originality. We want to preserve its original state,” he said.

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