Government aims to preserve Cambodia’s coast

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Enthusiastic participants at the 2012 Sea Festival in Sihanoukville. Pha Lina

Government aims to preserve Cambodia’s coast

Officials from the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction, the Ministry of Tourism, and the Ministry of Environment are working closely to devise a campaign to cut down on environmental pollution caused by unmitigated development in Cambodia’s four coastal provinces – Sihanoukville, Kep, Kampot and Koh Kong.

Senior Minister Im Chhun Lim of the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Constrution spoke in a seminar on Monday in Sihanoukville about increasing Cambodia’s judicial standards for coastal management and development, which includes, specifically, Sihanoukville’s coastal renovation campaign.

“The construction industry contributes much to the economy’s growth, and we can also see the rapid growth of this industry here in Sihanoukville. The industry is a big part of tourism development, which will potentially provide further growth to the economy,” Im said.

However, he added that with that potential comes a risk of endangering the Kingdom’s coastline if solutions are not laid out in advance.

“The growth of the construction industry in these areas has resulted in a severe threat to the coastal environment, and we need to be proactive in solving this environmental problem to ensure a sustainable development,” he said.

“In accordance with the government’s vision for the development of these coasts, there is a need for sustainability and strategic planning,” he said.

He went on to explain that for Sihanoukville, the most developed of all the coastal provinces, which is also home to Cambodia’s only deep-sea port, provincial authorities have been given case studies on how to tackle construction-related problems such as water contamination and beach degradation.

Say Samal from the Ministry of Environment took a firm stand against the construction of new ports, claiming that the “only port needed in Sihanoukville is the deep-sea one.”

“Other ports must be demolished, and we request containers of any kind to be transported by train instead of through national roads to avoid traffic accidents. Communal chiefs are also banned from signing any agreements of coastal area sale with private companies,” Samal said.

Speaking at a rice conference last week in Phnom Penh, Prime Minister Hun Sen urged logistic companies to switch to freight for transporting heavy goods in a bid to increase cost efficiency. At that time, Royal Railway, the sole operator of the 266-kilometre “Southern Line” that runs from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville Port – but stops just short of the port and is managed by Kith Meng’s Royal Group – praised the endorsement. Nevertheless, logistic companies cited concerns over cost effectiveness and limited service schedule.

Additionally, Kith Meng’s Royal Group has come underfire recently after a January 20 decree by the National Committee for Cambodia Coastal Management and Development stated that the group had to cease development of a 40-metre jetty on Otres Beach that was intended to ferry materials to the group’s development of Koh Rong, instead urging the company to use Sihanoukville Port.

Ho Vandy, former co-chairman of the Tourism Private and Public Sector Working Group and current advisor to the Chamber of Commerce, commended the government for reclaiming coastal areas from private companies, and enforcing environmental protection plans, as the private sector had dominated the areas since around 2007.

Thorng Khon, spokesperson for the Ministry of Tourism stated, “sustainable development and accountability are very necessary and basically important for Cambodia’s coastal area development,” adding that the development should head towards the direction of green development in order to conserve the Kingdom’s cultural heritage and nature.

“More accurate strategic planning and clarity in management are needed to head this campaign,” he continued.

“We will not let the pollution in our coastal areas worsen like Thailand’s Pattaya beach, and are committed in keeping Sihanoukville’s Otres and Ochheuteal beaches clean as always. Also, we’re using the upcoming 2016 Sea Festival as motivation to improve the beaches’ environment to enhance tourism,” Khon said.

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