Preah Sihanouk provincial governor Kuoch Chamroeun on Sunday warned that criminals destroying mangrove forests to occupy state land will face strict legal repercussions.
The warning came as he attended the replanting of mangroves on 2ha that had been destroyed in Tuol Totoeng commune’s Chumpu Khmao village in Prey Nop district.
He said mangrove forests were vital to the health of natural habitats and helped prevent landslides and floods.
But in the past, the mangrove forests have been illegally logged and occupied, despite authorities’ attempts to educate the public and suppress perpetrators.
“Destroying mangrove forests is equivalent to destroying lives, so we must work together to protect and conserve mangrove forests for the benefit of our next generation.
“We have to replant on destroyed areas and take strict legal action against offenders. There can be no exceptions made for the clearing of mangrove forests,” Chamroeun said.
Provincial Fisheries Administration director Em Phea told The Post on Monday that mangrove forests are important nesting sites for several species of fish and birds.
Over 2,000 mangroves were planted in a flooded forest in Chumpu Khmao on Sunday to restore it after the previous mangroves had been cut and used as charcoal.
Guidance from officials has inspired locals to become more involved in the conservation of mangrove forests. Many of the locals work as fishermen and their livelihoods would improve with increased attention to conservation.
“Apart from being a natural barrier to protect the coast from natural disasters, mangrove forests are a carbon reservoir, and an important source of income to improve the livelihoods of local fishermen in that region.
“The mangrove forests provide entertainment to both local and international tourists as they are an important source of food and habitat for water and bird species,” Chamroeun said.
According to the fisheries law, he said, clearing or encroaching on mangrove forests carries a punishment of three to five years in prison and a fine.
Chamroeun also called on relevant institutions, especially fisheries communities, to actively engage in preventing deforestation.