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Villagers decry govt order to destroy reservoirs for farms

Villagers decry govt order to destroy reservoirs for farms

091203_05
Villagers survey the ruins of a home in Kampong Thom that was destroyed by Typhoon Ketsana when it hit Cambodia at the end of September. The storm killed 43 people.

Our people don’t have enough food to support their families.

STILL reeling from Typhoon Ketsana, farmers in Kampong Thom province say a government order to destroy 16 manmade reservoirs will put even more pressure on villagers still struggling to feed themselves.

The farmers have been digging the large reservoirs every year in a flooded forest area. During the wet season, the banks of the Tonle Sap river swell and douse the land, creating the flooded forests. When dry season comes, however, the farmers dig reservoirs in low-lying areas of the forest to retain a stock of water meant to feed their parched rice fields.

“We will have no food to eat, and we will starve to death if the government does not allow us to plant rice crops this dry season,” said Kim Sokhen, a representative of the farmers in Kampong Thom’s Baray district.

The government ordered the reservoirs destroyed last month after a Ministry of Water Resources report suggested that they were impacting natural fish habitats.

District and provincial governors are backing the farmers.

“Our people don’t have enough food to support their families because of the flooding caused by Ketsana,” said Kampong Thom Governor Chhun Chhorn. “The typhoon devastated their rice crops.”

He urged the government to delay destroying the reservoirs until next year, giving the farmers time to harvest their rice this dry season.

However, officials with the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries said the farmers’ unsanctioned moves have wrecked swathes of the flooded forest and could have “serious impacts” on the fisheries sector.

“We do not want the rice crops to destroy our fisheries resources,” said Khem Chenda, director of the Department of Administrative Affairs at the ministry.

“We can’t delay destroying these illegal reservoirs because we need to open the channels for the fish to spawn in the flooded forest.”

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