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PM opens first national park

PM opens first national park

P RINCE Norodom Ranariddh inaugurated the country's first National Park at Ream

on Mar 21. Preah Sihanouk National Park will cover 21,000 hectares fronting on

to the coast, and includes two islands and mountain ranges.

The park

will protect important marine species such as dolphin and whale, as well as

coral reef. Indigenous species of animals will come under its protection,

including tigers, barking deer, fishing cats, mouse deer, turtles, crocodile,

pangolins, monkeys and a variety of snakes and birds. The park will contribute

to national and local economies, and aims to integrate bio diversity

conservation interests with human land use.

More than 3 million hectares

of designated area in the countryside are to be protected by Royal Decree passed

on Nov. 1,1993. There will be seven national parks, ten wildlife sanctuaries,

three protected landscapes and three multiple-use areas.

Prince

Ranariddh, greeted by a large crowd, said: "We used to have national parks in

the Sangkum Reastr Niyum era. But this is the first time, since the formation of

the Royal Government, that the country has ever had a ministry for the

protection of the environment."

He stated that in addition to national

parks, the Royal Government is implementing bans on logging, shrimp farming and

gathering of coral.

"We are planning to ban the sale and gathering of

coral, to protect the coral reef. The pillage is terrible," he said. Agriculture

Minister Tao Seng Huor added that he did not know when the law would be passed,

saying: "It will be soon."

The prime minister was taken round an

exhibition at the park headquarters. In addition to models of the park, it

exhibited pieces of large coral, presumably broken off the reef in the way that

the government is trying to make illegal.

Ranarridh, referring to the

logging ban passed in January which prohibits the export of cut logs from the

end of April, confirmed: "The logging ban will stay in place. Big companies will

not be allowed to cut, but the problem is the anarchy of the system. We must

prevent the cutting of trees and have a reforestation plan. We have to preserve

the flora and fauna."

Tao Seng Hour said they would use the International

Timber Organization's recommendation as their master plan.

Regarding

contracts to prawn farmers, which destroys mangrove forests, Ranariddh said that

the government will refuse new contracts and review those established before

1993.

He confirmed that national park protection would extend to the two

offshore islands. Koh Thmei and Koh Ses. "I do not see any obstacle. The Cabinet

will approve. With regards to the local villages there, there are not a lot of

people. We have to educate them and provide them with means. If necessary, we

will move them out of the national park in order to provide

education."

David Ashwell, representative of the International Union for

the Conservation of Nature, which collaborated with the Ministry of Environment

in preparing the park concept, said: "This is a national park of international

standards. The benefits will contribute to the overall development of the

Sihanoukville region. It will attract visitors."

The Ministry has

received $ 10,000 from Ariston, the Malaysian company which will develop Naga

Island. Ariston plans to develop an Eco-tourism center. Enterprise Oil paid for

the newly built visiters' centre, and a calendar. Barry Rogers said they hope to

sponsor the next national park in Kirirom.

He said: "We are aware of the

sensitivity of the coastline, and the destruction of mangrove forests caused by

shrimp farming and the use of chemicals."

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