At a consultative meeting with the Prey Veng provincial administration on Thursday, the Ministry of Environment expressed support for its initiative to turn the wetlands at Boeung Slae lake, in Ba Phnom district’s Batheay commune, into a protected area.
The decision was made as thousands of species of animal and plant life that are listed as endangered and under threat can be found in the area.
The meeting was attended by the ministry’s secretary of state Srun Darith, provincial deputy governor Lieng Sreymol, specialists from relevant ministries and institutions, and representatives of the provincial administration and communities.
Sreymol said at the meeting that the ecosystem in the area played an important role and was a source of water for the people who lived around it.
Residents of 14 communes used the lake to irrigate dry-season paddy fields. The lake had enabled them to cultivate their crops twice or three times a year.
“As population growth increases around the Boeung Slae lake, they have cleared flooded forest land to cultivate crops. So [the administration] calls for Boeung Slae be designated a natural protected area,” he said.
Srun Darith said the endangered and threatened bird species that lived in the area included the Oriental darter, Spot-billed pelican and Lesser adjutant, especially its Spatula sub-species. All the species are continuing to breed near the Boeung Slae area.
He said the ministry intended to conserve the area’s biodiversity in the interests of promoting nature tourism in the communities.
“Based on the economic value of such biodiversity, the provincial administration requested the ministry’s collaboration to designate the lake as a natural protected area. We hope this will raise the living standards of the local communities who can earn a sustainable income,” Darith said.
He said designating the lake as a natural protected area would draw the participation of the local communities to protect its resources.
“The ministry unanimously supported our initiatives to designate the lake as a natural protected area to ensure that the resources at Boeung Slae will be protected and preserved for the sake of developing local communities now and in the future,” he said.
Ministry of Environment spokesman Neth Pheaktra said on Thursday that the ministry would prepare the procedures to request the government to issue a sub-decree designating Boeung Slae as a natural protected area.
“Once it has been designated as such, we will prepare procedures to further protect and conserve some [areas]. So, we will keep the area intact. Hunting and catching animals in the area would become illegal,” he said.
Doung Sophors, the project officer for Woman, an organisation that has worked to conserve Boeung Slae area since 2011, said the surface of the lake consisted of more than 2,000ha in the commune. In addition to its large surface, the area also had higher ground and sparse and flooded forests.
“As an organisation that works to conserve communities and residents in the Boeung Slae area, I’m happy that the ministry will request the government to designate the area as a natural protected one,” Sophors said.