Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Projects ‘threaten mangroves’

Projects ‘threaten mangroves’

Mangroves that were cleared as a result of a coastal development project (left) are seen next to a section of an untouched mangrove forest in Kampot province’s Teuk Chhou district in May.
Mangroves that were cleared as a result of a coastal development project (left) are seen next to a section of an untouched mangrove forest in Kampot province’s Teuk Chhou district in May. SCOTT HOWES

Projects ‘threaten mangroves’

Mangrove forests along Cambodia’s coast in Kampot support more than 100,000 families and create a diverse ecosystem that is home to hundreds of unique species.

But coastal development projects, coupled with locals’ reliance on the forest for their livelihoods, threaten to decimate more than 1,000 hectares of this lush environment, an NGO has said.

The mangroves have been in decline for a decade due to human activities, including logging and filling the waterways with sand to create artificial land, according to Wildlife Conservation Cambodia.

Fishing communities say their livelihoods are also being affected by a 1,000-hectare special economic zone under construction in the province.

Besides a $100 million seaport and $400 million Chinese-backed coal power plant being built at the site, a private company, Keo Chea, is building a 200-hectare hotel complex in nearby Kep Thmey village.

“The land has been demarcated for investors. It is state land, but we local citizens cannot use the land. They say it has been allocated for development,” said Nak Sen, who represents fishermen in Kampot town’s Trouey Koh commune.

The commune is also home to a salt farm and land is being divvied up to expand the business, placing the mangroves further at risk, he added.

A dam-like structure built into the sea to shelter the port will only help to seal the fate of the mangroves, according to Mam Kesey, an investigator at rights group Licadho in Kampot province.

“They fill up the coast with sand and build a protecting dam into the sea for more than 20 kilometres, which severely affects the natural resources as well as the coast,” Kesey said.

Shifting climactic patterns being monitored by the local officials are a growing cause for concern, said Sar Sarin, director of Kampot’s Fisheries Administration.

The squeeze on arable land has gone hand-in-hand with increasing coastal erosion and rivers drying up, he added.

But all is not lost, Sarin said, as reforestation programs have made some progress towards restoring the forests. In 1970, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization measured 3,000 hectares of mangrove forest in Kep and Kampot provinces combined.

Local officials say that with the help of foreign donors, only 100 hectares have so far been lost. However, no accurate measurements of the forest have been taken in recent years and more is destroyed every day.

Villagers are now being educated on the value of the forests through a government scheme that aims to involve local communities in conserving the forest.

“These are measures to prevent climate change. We allow communities to join our efforts and protect and reforest,” Sarin said.

But Phou Teng, director of the Wildlife Conservation Cambodia in Kampot province, is less optimistic.

“Everywhere, the mangroves are being destroyed every day; it cannot be prevented,” he said.

MOST VIEWED

  • Cambodia to waive quarantine requirements Nov 15, no PCR test required

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has decided to lift all quarantine requirements for fully vaccinated travellers and visitors – both Cambodians and foreign nationals – effective from November 15 onward. In a special message addressed to officials and relevant authorities on November 14, Hun Sen said this policy will enable

  • PM: No more quarantine for vaccinated travellers

    Cambodia is lifting all quarantine requirements for vaccinated inbound travellers entering Cambodia by air, waterway or land border checkpoints effective from November 15. Travellers will be required to take a rapid antigen test on arrival rather than waiting for the results of the lengthier polymerase chain

  • No payment required for travellers taking rapid Covid tests on arrival

    Ministry of Health officials said there would be no payment required for the rapid Covid-19 tests given to travellers who arrive in Cambodia from November 15 onwards after the quarantine requirement is lifted for fully vaccinated people. Health ministry spokeswoman Or Vandine told The Post on

  • General’s gun smuggling ring busted

    The Military Police sent six military officers to court on November 22 to face prosecution for possession of 105 illegal rifles and arms smuggling, while investigators say they are still hunting down additional accomplices. Sao Sokha, deputy commander of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces and commander of

  • More Cambodians studying in US

    The number of Cambodian students studying at US colleges and universities in 2020-21 increased by 14.3 per cent over the previous year despite the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a recent US government report. The 2021 Open Doors report on International Educational Exchange showed that 848 Cambodian students studied

  • Cambodia, Thailand to discuss border reopening

    Cambodian authorities from provinces along the Cambodia-Thailand border will meet with Thai counterparts to discuss reopening border checkpoints to facilitate travel, transfer of products and cross-border trade between the two countries. Banteay Meanchey provincial deputy governor Ly Sary said on November 22 that the provincial administration