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Ministry: Protect marine life

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Sihanoukville’s Ochheuteal beachside in 2018. Heng Chivoan

Ministry: Protect marine life

The Ministry of Environment on Tuesday urged relevant public and private sector stakeholders to jointly preserve the Kingdom’s marine biodiversity for the sake of sustainable development.

The appeal came as the ministry announced the establishment of the Koh Rong Marine National Park in Preah Sihanouk province which followed rapid encroachment on natural resources in the coastal areas.

Speaking at a workshop under the theme Conservation of Marine and Coastal Biodiversity through Designation of Marine National Park in Preah Sihanouk province on Tuesday, the ministry’s under-secretary of state South Ya said marine resources have contributed significantly to social and economic development.

He cited as an example the potential of eco-tourism on which the local communities rely.

“To preserve biodiversity and the ecological system as a whole, the ministry has conducted research and prepared strategic plans for its protection in conjunction with relevant stakeholders,” he said.

Ya said the Kingdom’s coast stretches from the Cham Yeam international checkpoint near the Thai border to the Prek Chak international checkpoint on the Vietnamese border.

It spans four provinces – Preah Sihanouk, Koh Kong, Kampot and Kep – with around two million people living and benefiting from fishing, farming and tourism.

Lou Vanny, the country coordinator for the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), said his conservation NGO supports the Ministry of Environment in protecting biodiversity and marine national parks in the Kingdom.

“We are assisting [the ministry] in . . . making a huge banner to inform the public on the designation of the Koh Rong area as a national park area so stakeholders such as the local communities can join conservation efforts there,” he said.

Vanny said the government has designated many protected areas, but Koh Rong island is the Kingdom’s first marine national park, spanning 50,000ha.

Sok Sokhom, the director of the NGO Cambodian National Research Organisation (CNRO), said authorities have not done enough to protect natural resources in coastal areas.

“We have seen that law enforcement by local authorities seems to be inadequate at the moment . . . Natural resource destruction is like self-destruction so the authorities must follow government guidelines."

“Law enforcement should apply to everyone, not only to ordinary people while the rich and powerful can fill up beaches and destroy natural resources without punishment,” he said.

Sokhom pointed out that the authorities have so far failed to take effective measures against individuals who had encroached coastal areas.

“The authorities merely make offenders promise in writing not to repeat the offences, so the encroachment persists and [beaches] that have been filled up have not been restored,” he said.

The tourism department director, Taing Sochet Kresna, supports the ministry’s appeal for joint marine resource protection.

“We’ve cooperated with the provincial environment department and authorities to preserve natural resources,” he said, adding that his officials are preparing guidelines focusing on environment and sanitation-related education.

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