Minister of Environment Eang Sophalleth urges officials to strengthen collaboration for more effective natural resource and biodiversity conservation. 

The instruction followed the closing of a workshop held by the ministry on December 6 to review its 2023 performance and set strategic action plans for protected area management for 2024-28”.

Sophalleth acknowledged achievements in joint resource management and biodiversity conservation, noting precision in environmental efforts. He further encouraged leaders, civil servants and park rangers to persist in fulfilling their roles with professionalism, responsibility and creativity.

“Officials need to enhance collaboration in natural resource management and biodiversity conservation with partners. Let’s achieve new successes in the mission outlined in the Circular Environmental Strategy 2023-28,” he said.

The minister sees the strategy as a roadmap for implementing environmental activities, focusing on managing natural resources and biodiversity conservation for success.

He urged the General Department of Natural Protected Areas (GDNPA) to enhance efficiency and modernisation and promote protected area management in alignment with the environmental code and the strategy for natural resources and the environment. This includes fostering research and preserving biodiversity, as well as natural and cultural heritage within protected areas.

Phloek Phyrom, coordinator of the Indigenous People Network in Mondulkiri province, said on December 7 that while the ministry’s initiative is positive, she believes that the ministry needs to engage in conversations and consultations with the local community in order for this effort to succeed, as most areas designated for the protection of natural resources are guarded by ethnic minority groups.

“I believe the ministry should engage in consultations with the indigenous people responsible for safeguarding these natural resources. Cooperation with ethnic minority communities is essential before planning, developing, and managing any natural resource protection area. Working in isolation may lead to issues for these groups,” she said.

The ministry reports a notable increase in Cambodia’s protected areas, rising from 23 areas covering around 3.3 million hectares (18 per cent of the country’s land area) in 1993 to 73 areas, covering over 7 million hectare (40 per cent of the country).

These designated zones include national parks, marine national parks, wildlife sanctuaries, landscape protection areas, multi-use areas, Ramsar wetland sites of international significance, core regions of the Tonle Sap Lake Biosphere Reserve, and natural heritage sites under the ministry’s jurisdiction.