The Ministry of Environment has warned it will take legal action against those who illegally occupy land in the Boeung Prek Lapouv Protected Landscape Area in Takeo province, where the ministry and partner NGOs are implementing a project to improve biodiversity protection and promote the livelihoods of the local community.

Environment ministry spokesman Neth Pheaktra said the ministry is working with NatureLife Cambodia, BirdLife International Cambodia, and the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust on biodiversity protection at the area, which covers 8305ha in Borei Cholsar and Koh Andet districts.

“No one has the right to buy or sell land in this protected area. The environment ministry will not recognise any purchasing certificates, which were issued illegally for the land,” he said.

Pheaktra said the area is rich in biodiversity with 132 bird species, 138 fish species, and a variety of aquatic plants.

“We are implementing a total of four projects in this area: biodiversity preservation, community livelihood promotion, awareness raising and research,” Pheaktra said while visiting the area on January 16.

With regard to biodiversity preservation, he said a station was built for patrolling the area, a water reservoir of 16ha was also built with the special goal of providing water to cranes. The project also planted 5ha of forest trees and 25ha of aquatic plants as these are a major food source for cranes. The officials in charge also cleared some plant species that pose dangers to birds, such as mimosa pigra and hyacinth, among others.

“To promote the local community’s livelihoods, we have set up buffalo bank by giving buffalo loans to people living in the protected area.

“With regards to education and awareness raising, we have integrated lessons about environmental education and cranes at three targeted schools,” Pheaktra said, adding that students at these schools will learn the importance of biodiversity, especially the cranes present in Boeung Prek Lapouv.

Environment ministry spokesman Neth Pheaktra visits Boeung Prek Lapouv on Sunday. ENVIRONMENT MINISTRY

Srey Sunleang, deputy head of the ministry’s General Department of Nature Protection and Conservation Administration, said that Cambodia, as a signatory of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, followed the three pillars of the convention. The three pillars include the wise use of all wetlands, the designation and management of wetlands of international importance, and international cooperation.

“We are proud to have participated with the ministry in protecting and preserving biodiversity in the Boeung Prek Lapouv Protected Landscape Area,” said BirdLife International Cambodia Programme manager Bou Vorsak.

He said all teams involved in this work will try to effectively preserve this potential wetland. He also requested that the environment ministry and other sub-national authorities strengthen legal enforcement and speed up the procedure of dividing the management of this area.

According to Pheaktra, thanks to joint preservation efforts, the population of Asian openbill has increased in the area. Officials had spotted 2,186 of their nests in 2020, a huge increase from the just over 100 that were seen in 2003. Officials have also seen yellow-breasted buntings and greater adjutants.

Takeo environmental department director Hong Phearak said his department had paid special attention to the care and preservation of biodiversity in this area.

“We have deployed rangers to the area and they are working with local authorities and our NGO partners to protect and preserve the area. They are also educating the local people on the relevant laws and on the value of the area’s ecological system,” he said.