The Ministry of Environment and several institutions marked February 2, World Wetlands Day with an event that increased public awareness of the value and the role of wetlands and their current conditions.

Presiding over the event in Battambang province, environment ministry secretary of state Srun Darith said that the loss of wetlands was predominantly due to human activity. This included wetland modifications to serve agriculture, infrastructure development, irrigation, filling wetlands with soil for development and construction. Excessive pollution, along with the presence of invasive species, are endangering wetland ecosystems.

“The wetlands of the Tonle Sap Lake are located in six provinces, including Battambang. The wetlands have suffered from many factors, especially illegal land grabs,” he added.

“Wetlands restoration is an important topic and we need to be mindful that it is time for all of us to restore the wetlands, which are a precious natural resource,” he continued.

The government recommended that relevant ministries and institutions and authorities at all levels take immediate action to address the challenges and reclaim encroached land in Zone III, red-define the boundaries of Zone II, and restore the affected areas, by re-planting flooded forests and caring for existing saplings.

In addition, USAID Greening Prey Lang also highlighted the importance of wetlands, saying millions of people depended upon the wetlands of the Lower Mekong to provide them with rice and fish. Wetlands did not just nourish the Cambodian people, they also provided a habitat for countless fish, birds, reptiles and mammals.