PHOTO SUPPLIED BY SAM VEASNA CENTRE
A spot-billed pelican at the Prek Toal bird sanctuary.
THE Prek Toal bird sanctuary in the Tonle Sap biosphere reserve has been labelled a "model" for environmental management by an instructor from a four-day conference on deltas held at the Angkor Century Hotel last week. The Dragon Asia summit, titled "Science transforming vulnerable deltas to resilient deltas: Harmonising natural systems with societal needs", began last Monday, and was attended by over 100 members of the Dragon Institute.
The Dragon (Delta Research and Global Observation Network) Institute is an association of "scientists, managers, and policymakers" concerned with international lake and delta research.
Dr James Wandersee, a professor of Educational Theory, Policy and Practice at Louisiana State University, and a course instructor at the conference, said Siem Reap was chosen for the conference because of its proximity to the Mekong River and the Tonle Sap.
He said Cambodia can learn a lot from the US about environmental management - especially from its mistakes.
"It's a mistake to control the river, rather than letting nature take its course," he said. "We've seen that in the States."
In addition to up-river damming, he said the well-being of the Mekong River and the Tonle Sap are threatened by climate change, and a future problem will be the relocation of people in areas that will be changed by altered water levels.
But while Cambodia faces threats to its deltas, Wandersee said that Prek Toal, the nature reserve and popular day-trip for Siem Reap tourists, is a leading example of environmental management. Prek Toal is a bird-watchers paradise and much-touted example of "eco-tourism" as well as being home to a variety of rare birds such as the spot-billed pelican.
Delegates were taken to Prek Toal by Osmose, a nonprofit tour organisation that uses funds raised from tours to assist conservation and provide education and resources to the local community.