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Pilot ecosystem initiative to draw funds from Kulen water use

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Environment Ministry secretary of state Neth Pheaktra (right) and an environment official show a map of Preah Jayavarman-Norodom National Park in Siem Reap province on December 19, 2020. Hean Rangsey

Pilot ecosystem initiative to draw funds from Kulen water use

According to the Ministry of Environment, all businesses that consume large amounts of water from Kulen Mountain in Siem Reap province’s Preah Jayavarman-Norodom National Park may now be required to make voluntary contributions through the pilot of Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES).

The ministry will also pilot the charge for ecosystem services via paying tax on commercial water use, including producers and distributors.

Ministry secretary of state Neth Pheaktra said PES is a financial mechanism that requires users to pay a fee which will be used to ensure the sustainability of ecosystem services in the given area.

He made the statement during his visit to Preah Jayavarman-Norodom National Park in Siem Reap on December 19.

He said that to make this payment work, three parties – the ministry, companies that produce water and hotels that use a lot of water – need to agree on the payment method and the parties that are determined to pay for the service.

“The government’s budget to support ecosystem protection is still limited, so we collect payment for ecosystem services provided”, he said.

In 2016, the government instructed the environment ministry to prepare the pilot payment system PES in Preah Jayavarman-Norodom National Park in Siem Reap and the multi-use areas of Prek Teuk Sap Kbal Chhay in Preah Sihanouk province, with the support of international partners.

According to the ministry’s estimation, when the payment system is fully implemented, it could bring in $2.9 million to $3.9 million of income per year for the government.

The ministry’s Department of Biodiversity director Meng Monireak said Phnom Kulen is a source of water, and the first river to receive water from it is Stung Pouk, which flows into the Siem Reap River and other water sources.

He believes that the funds raised from the PES pilot implementation will be used for the maintenance, protection and restoration of ecosystem functions in the target areas.

These include the restoration and maintenance of forested watershed, the refurbishment of damaged natural waterways, the conservation of biodiversity and the improvement of the living standards of communities that play a role in protecting downstream areas for future generations.

According to the ministry, the Kulen Mountain has the potential to supply fresh water and groundwater for the entire Siem Reap town, especially as a groundwater source for stabilising ancient temples, most of which are built on sand dunes.

Both business owners and ordinary people living in Siem Reap town have to rely on groundwater, which makes up about 80 per cent of their drinking water supply. The remaining 20 per cent is sourced from the provincial water supply.

Such a high volume of groundwater use has reduced the amount of groundwater, which has caused people to dig deeper wells each year.

Pheaktra said the Kulen Mountain ecosystem must be conserved to implement the sustainable ecosystem payment system.

Such conservation efforts include preventing forest loss, rehabilitating forests and natural water systems, as well as preventing pollution of rivers and groundwater.

The voluntary contribution of business owners who need large amounts of water will be indirectly funding these conservation works.

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