A prominent local businessman was ordered on Monday to cease construction work for a road in a mangrove forest in Kampot province after authorities learned it was being carried out in a protected area.
Kampot provincial governor Cheav Tay instructed Oknha Kuy Leang Ky this week to halt the filling of a mangrove forest in Kampot province’s Teuk Chhou district. The governor said the work impacted fish populations as well as the livelihood of communities that depend on them.
The work is being carried out in Prek Tnort commune by Leang Ky’s company, Oknha Kuy Leang Ky Construction Trading Group Co Ltd.
The governor also accused the company of carrying out the work without explicit permission from the authorities.
The order to cease operations came after the authorities carried out an inspection of the site and assessed the impact of the project on the local community.
“This company failed to inform or seek permission from the specialist police or the provincial authorities,” Tay said.
“The filling of this land is negatively affecting crab, lobster and fish populations. To protect the interests of the nation and people, particularly the fishing community in the area, we must ban this type of work and ask the company to remove the soil immediately,” he said.
Leang Ky could not be reached for comment on Monday.
Contradicting the governor’s version of the events, Kampot provincial Fisheries Administration chief Sar Sorin told The Post on Tuesday that the company did ask the Prek Tnort commune authorities and the fishing community for permission to build the road, and that they had initially supported the project.
The company told authorities and villagers that the road, set to be 6m wide and 200m long, would improve access to the area and that it was being built in the public’s interest, Sorin said.
He stressed that the authorities believed the project wouldn’t impact the forest or the communities that depended on it.
However, when construction work began, the negative impact of the project became clear as the company started filling the land.
Sorin said the company covered more than 3,000 mangrove trees with soil as well as three boundary markers demarcating the protected area in Prek Tnort and Koh Touch communes.
“During a site inspection on Sunday, the national-level committee found that the company had filled an area measuring 10m by 80m with soil,” Sorin said.
Ouk Sovannarith, the head of the fishing community in Prek Tnort village, said the work was destroying marine biodiversity and endangering the livelihood of the fishing community.
Sorin said the land had been transferred to Sovannarith’s fishing community to be protected and managed while relying on it for subsistence.
“The company intends to build a road for the general good, but because the mangrove forests are inside a protected area, the national-level committee has ordered it to remove the soil, reinstall the markers, and replant the mangrove trees,” Sorin said.
He said that, as of yesterday, the company had yet to remove the soil.
On Saturday, the committee found that a Chinese company has also been filling mangrove forests with soil, covering an area measuring 15m by 40m.