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Fish farmers resist as lake is drained

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A view of Boeung Samrong in the capital’s Prek Pnov district. Pha Lina

Fish farmers resist as lake is drained

Some 60 per cent of 302 families living at Boeung Samrong lake in Phnom Penh’s Prek Pnov district agreed to accept compensation as authorities began draining the lake in preparation for increasing its depth, said Prek Pnov administration chief Sim Sophorng.

However, the remaining residents who rejected it said they will continue to live there until they receive compensation that’s acceptable to them.

On January 14, district authorities set a 10-day deadline for the residents, who use portions of the lake as fish farms, to move out so as to deepen the lake in order for it to continue being used as a reservoir.

Sophorng, who met with the residents of Boeung Samrong Lake on Monday, said the compensation is to pay for fish fry the farmers will lose by moving, with the loss of each fish compensated with 50 to 70 riel ($0.012 to $0.017).

“We will not delay and they need to move out. We will begin our process by starting to release the water and we will bring in the vehicles to excavate and deepen the pond,” he said.

Fish farmer Mech Sary said he rejected the compensation as it did not fully cover the losses he will incur by moving. Sary, who has lived at Boeung Samrong lake for a year, said he will continue living there until he gets an improved offer.

“I have not taken the compensation because if I take this money, how long can I survive with it? The situation is very tough and the water is receding,” he said.

Sary said he wants 20 million riel to fully compensate for his loss and that his fish farming enterprise was his first business investment. He said that authorities offered him less than half of that.

Boeung Samrong lake is protected by Sub-decree No 65, signed into law in June 2008, and is state property stretching over 336ha.

The lake serves as a reservoir for draining rainwater from Phnom Penh and other provinces. Authorities say the residents cleared the lake and built a dam, causing it to become shallow and unable to fulfil its function.

Fish farmer Sar Chariya said he agreed to take the compensation as there was fair mediation and a reasonable offer made to him.

“My fish fry were reducing anyway, so I took the compensation. The water is receding and they started dying, so I agreed to take the three million riel offered to me,” he said.

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