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‘Plastic for rice’ Tonle Sap clean up project launched

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The Siem Reap provincial environment department and CATA have launched a campaign to clean up the Tonle Sap Lake. PROVINCIAL ENVIRONMENT DEPARTMENT

‘Plastic for rice’ Tonle Sap clean up project launched

The Tampaing Snong Russey Foundation and Cambodian Association of Travel Agents (CATA) have announced the launch of a campaign to clean up plastic waste along the banks of the Tonle Sap Lake and flooded forests of Siem Reap province.

The campaign kicked off at Wat Mechrey in Peam Ta Uor village of Puok district’s Keo Poa commune on January 30. The function was attended by nearly 100 participants in the presence of CATA president Chhay Sivlin, district deputy governor Sok Chea, provincial Department of Environment officials, commune authorities, entrepreneurs and tour guides.

The department said on January 30 that the campaign urged participants to collect floating plastic waste from the Tonle Sap Lake and exchange it for rice.

The campaign will run from late January to the end of June. It also incorporates an ecotourism programme that includes boat rides, community tours and biodiversity visits linked to activities to help collect plastic from the trees in the river.

“This environmental tourism campaign has started and aims to collect plastic waste in the Tonle Sap during the 2022 monsoon season. It was initiated by CATA – in collaboration with Tampaing Snong Russey Foundation – to improve the livelihoods of local people and to render the Tonle Sap plastic free,” said CATA.

Sea Sophal, founder and president of the Tampaing Snong Russey Foundation, told The Post on February 1 that the campaign aimed to improve the lives of the communities through direct income from tourists.

Tourists visiting Tonle Sap communities could use their boat services, and people would also pick up rubbish they come across while on a tour. The rubbish could then be exchanged for rice, he added.

He said the campaign was timed to coincide with government plans to reopen tourism in early 2022, especially in the province. Another reason for the timing was that at this time of year the Mekong River was not still flowing at full capacity.

“The mix of tourism boats together with the collection of plastic is a new activity. This could be new tourism product for the community as so many lost incomes due to the pandemic. People cannot rely on fishing alone to earn their livings, so a new tourism initiative has real merit,” he said.

“Visitors come to visit the Tonle Sap and admire the scenery. They want to go boating and feel that they are supporting the livelihoods of the people, too. It seems like if they are participating in providing jobs for the people on the river and helping to clean up the environment and earn rice for the villagers, it’s a win-win situation,” he said.

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