Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Prime Minister calls for tougher measures in protecting Kingdom’s rivers

Prime Minister calls for tougher measures in protecting Kingdom’s rivers

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Prime Minister Hun Sen waves at the 5th River Festival in Kampong Chhnang province, featuring cultural and sporting activities. HUN SEN’s FACEBOOK PAGE

Prime Minister calls for tougher measures in protecting Kingdom’s rivers

Prime Minister Hun Sen has ordered all relevant institutions to take tougher measures in preventing “anarchic” sand dredging, illegal fishing and the clearing of flooded forest, which he said would have an adverse impact on Cambodia’s rivers.

Speaking at the fifth River Festival in Kampong Chhnang province on Saturday, Hun Sen also called on stakeholders to jointly protect natural resources for the national interest.

“You need to seek a source of funding to prevent riverbanks collapsing and stop rivers becoming shallow, and find ways to direct the water current. You must prevent anarchic sand dredging, illegal fishing and the clearing of flooded forest that would result in our rivers losing resources and [damage them] as tourist attractions,” he said.

The prime minister said the Kingdom’s natural resources attract both local and foreign visitors wishing to see the lush green vegetation and the many animal and fish species.

“So we must strive together to protect these resources. This is not asking the impossible. We can do it, but it requires the concerted effort and actions of our people,” he said.

“We do not have the capacity to pump, restore and direct water currents and prevent riverbanks from collapsing yet. We must seek the budget to resolve these issues at places where we can deal with them first.

“Our waters, including the Tonle Sap and other lakes, have become shallow year after year because of sand and silt brought in during the rainy season and fallen leaves, which have also played a part in making our rivers shallower.

“This situation has changed from some 50 to 60 years or 100 years ago when the waters were deep. Then there were plenty of fish and less people. But now the waters are becoming shallower and with less fish but more people. Coupled with anarchic fishing, it has posed challenges for us all,” he said.

Yos Monirath, spokesman for the Ministry of Mines and Energy, told The Post on Sunday that over the past few years the ministry had sent its inspectorate team to crack down on a series of illegal sand dredging operations, with a number of unlicensed businesses either shut down or fined, or both.

‘Clandestine operations’

He said relevant authorities would take tougher measures following Hun Sen’s appeal.

“Sand dredging does not impact all rivers if the dredging complies with the guidance laid out by experts after thorough studies aiming to restore the riverbed. But in some cases, dredging is done covertly – we acknowledge that it happens. We have taken measures to combat such clandestine operations by cooperating with relevant authorities at all levels as well as people living along the rivers,” he said.

The ministry’s measures also include a round-the-clock hotline for stakeholders to report suspicious activities involving illegal mining and sand dredging.

Srey Vuthy, spokesman for the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, could not be reached for comment by The Post on Sunday.

Hem Odom, an independent researcher in the fields of sociology and the environment, welcomed the prime minister’s appeals for the joint protection of the rivers, which he said are vital resources for humankind.

“This is an encouragement for all officials to fulfil their obligations. As long as there are effective mechanisms in place, such encouragement from the top leadership would spur officials into action and eventually lead to an effective, systematic protection of our natural resources,” he said.

Odom said eradicating natural resources-related crimes requires political will and strict law enforcement.

Neam Kopy, an expert on Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA), said that while such offences are continuing, they have decreased compared to previous years thanks to better awareness of the issue among the public and greater action by relevant authorities.

“I’ve found that offences including anarchic sand dredging, illegal fishing and the clearing of flooded forest have decreased. Our citizens’ perceptions of the issue has played a part, while authorities have worked harder to combat the crime,” he said.

Both Odom and Kopy urged for a thorough assessment of environmental impacts before any development projects are carried out.

MOST VIEWED

  • NY sisters inspired by Khmer heritage

    Growing up in Brooklyn, New York, Cambodian-American sisters Edo and Eyen Chorm have always felt a deep affinity for their Cambodian heritage and roots. When the pair launched their own EdoEyen namesake jewellery brand in June, 2020, they leaned heavily into designs inspired by ancient Khmer

  • Omicron patients can stay home: PM

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has given the green light for anyone who contracts the SARS-CoV-2 Omicron mutation or any other variant to convalesce or receive treatment at home or in any other reasonable non-healthcare setting. The new decision supersedes a restriction on home care for

  • Cambodia records first Omicron community case

    The Ministry of Health on January 9 reported 30 new Covid-19 cases, 29 of which were imported and all were confirmed to be the Omicron variant. The ministry also reported 11 recoveries and no new deaths. Earlier on January 9, the ministry also announced that it had detected the Kingdom's

  • The effects of the USD interest rate hike on Cambodian economy

    Experts weigh in on the effect of a potential interest rate expansion by the US Federal Reserve on a highly dollarised Cambodia Anticipation of the US Federal Reserve’s interest rate hike in March is putting developing economies on edge, a recent blog post by

  • Cambodia’s first ever anime festival kicks off Jan 22 at capital’s F3 centre

    Phnom Penh's first ever Anime Festival will bring together fans, artists, shops and other local businesses with ties to the Japanese animation style for cosplay competitions, online games, pop-up shops and more on January 22, with Friends Futures Factory (F3) hosting. F3 is a project that

  • PM eyes Myanmar peace troika

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has suggested that ASEAN member states establish a tripartite committee or diplomatic troika consisting of representatives from Cambodia, Brunei and Indonesia that would be tasked with mediating a ceasefire in Myanmar. The premier also requested that Nippon Foundation chairman Yohei Sasakawa