Provincial authorities within the Tonle Sap Lake region have planted over 85,000 saplings to restore more than 60,000ha of flooded forest land which had been affected by illegal logging, for which 18 people have been arrested this week.
Fisheries Administration (FiA) spokesman Ung Try announced that from November 29 to May 1, 15,120 families volunteered to return 63,418ha of flooded forest land to the state. Regional authorities have planted 85,098 saplings on part of the land, while 118,620 saplings have been prepared for planting for National Fish Day in July.
Try stressed that the mass planting was a serious and long-term effort to replenish the forest land. “We have a team in charge of maintaining and inspecting the planted saplings regularly to make sure that the already-planted saplings grow well,” he said. “If they are found to be dead, that team must report to the provincial-level team to request saplings from the nursery station to replant.”
He added that the Inter-ministerial Commission for the Prevention and Suppression of Fishing Crimes had strengthened its mechanisms to prevent and crack down on logging, burning and flooded forest land clearing offences more effectively.
The Commission also transferred power to villages and communes to be able to more effectively enforce mechanisms to prevent further encroachment on flooded forest lands.
Kampong Chhnang provincial FiA Cantonment director Ly La told The Post that 24,000 saplings had been planted on 80 ha of land in the province, adding that more than 6,000 bamboo saplings, palm saplings, and nearly 30,000 palm seeds had been planted in areas outside the flooded land.
“We also go down to the field every week to care for the saplings as we fear that some may die and might not grow as planned,” he said.
“We also continue to bust [forest] crimes. On May 10, we arrested 14 people for illegally clearing land in the flooded forest areas as well as for growing rice in Zone 3, which is prohibited,” he said, adding that they were being questioned by expert officials before their case would be sent to court for legal action.
Tea Kim Soth, director of the Siem Reap provincial Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, said the saplings planted by the provincial team had “grown well”.
The team had planted a total of 5,300 flooded forest saplings, 200 bamboo trees, and 35 palm trees and germinated 72,172 palm seeds on 80ha of land.
“Under the care of our team, those saplings are continuing to grow well. We hope that they will become a habitat for all kinds of animals to live in the next two to three years,” he said.
Pursat provincial FiA Cantonment director Phum Vimol said the planting exercise in his province had been successful due to the active participation of local communities.
“Our people are well aware of the value of natural resources and flooded forests, and have participated in planting and maintaining them. Communities are inspired to stop logging and destroying the flooded forests for the next, and future, generations,” he said.
Kampong Thom Provincial governor Nguon Ratanak said that since the reclamation of flooded forest land from illegal loggers, the provincial administration has, together with government ministries, planted 565 bamboo trees, 115 palm saplings, nearly 5,000 saplings and 60,000 palm seeds on 66.6ha of land.
“We have to take care of them so that they can survive. But this work requires the participation of all stakeholders, especially village, commune and local authorities,” he said.
He added that the provincial sub-commission for the prevention and suppression of fisheries offences are continuing to seek out offenders as such crimes have not been completely stamped out. On May 9, they detained suspects in concurrent operations in Peam Bang commune’s Balort village of Stoung district and in Kampong Svay district’s Phat Sanday commune, he said.
During the operation, the police impounded 3,000 barricade posts, 1,500m-long nets, four motorboats, four boats of freshwater clam nets, and released 500kg of freshwater clams back into the river, Ratanak revealed.
“Our team also built case files of four suspects for referral to court over machine-operated freshwater clam nets,” he said.
The FiA said in a report that from March 2 to May 10, more than 1,400 fishing tools were confiscated, along with 78 fishing boats and 29 machines used in fishing crimes. A total of 62 cases were sent to court, while 28 people were arrested and 20 others summoned for questioning.