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Tonle Sap Lake ecotourist plan set for seven provinces

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Environment ministry officials and the media visit a community in a protected area of Kampong Speu province in January. Yousos Apdoulrashim

Tonle Sap Lake ecotourist plan set for seven provinces

The “Cambodia Sustainable Landscape and Ecotourism Project” is scheduled to last for six years (2020-2025) and will improve the management of protected areas and uphold the value of eco-tourism opportunities in an area of more than 3.8 million hectares across the Cardamom landscape and the Tonle Sap Lake.

Khin Meng Kheng, the Ministry of Environment project manager, visited the area to learn about natural eco-tourism products and services from January 25-28. He said the project was managed by the ministry in cooperation with the Ministry of Rural Development.

The environment ministry was working to promote sustainable management of natural resources in Cambodia’s protected areas through innovative, responsible and accountable management systems within the framework of improving institutions and cooperation between relevant sides, he said.

“The environment and rural development ministries have received $57.58 million for the implementation of the six-year project,” he added.

The two ministries had received the budget from a number of stakeholders, including a loan of $50.60 million from the World Bank and $4.42 million from the Global Environment Facility along with $2.5 million from the government.

“This project covers the provinces around the Tonle Sap Lake – in addition to Kampong Speu and Koh Kong provinces – and 14 natural resource protected areas,” Meng Kheng said.

The provinces surrounding Tonle Sap are Kampong Chhnang, Pursat, Battambang, Siem Reap and Kampong Thom.

Most of these funds were being used to create an environment that would attract investment from the private sector, such as the construction of roads and sanitation and the strengthening of eco-tourism destinations and natural communities, he said.

Teang Chhay Heang, deputy head of planning at the rural development ministry, said the ministry is responsible for overseeing clean water, sanitation and the construction of road infrastructure in rural areas. The ministry was assessing natural resource and eco-tourism areas on a case by case basis, and would determine if improved infrastructure was liable to increase visitor numbers.

He sees the project as a driving force in the economic growth of rural communities and added that it strengthens management of the natural diversity of the Cardamom Mountains and the Tonle Sap Lake.

The project covers wildlife sanctuaries including the Southern Cardamom National Park, Central Cardamom Mountains National Park, Oral Wildlife Sanctuary, Phnom Samkos Wildlife Sanctuary and many biodiversity conservation corridors.

“The project will strengthen the value chain of non-timber forest products and increase rural income. It will also improve Cambodia’s potential for eco-tourism,” he said.

Specific investments in improving connectivity and building entrepreneurial skills on non-timber forest products and ecotourism will also be implemented, he added.

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