The ongoing demolition of man-made reservoirs around Tonle Sap lake moved beyond Kompong Thom province for the first time this week, government officials said yesterday.
After demolishing or downsizing 15 reservoirs in Kompong Thom since last week, work crews have removed another two dams each in the provinces of Battambang and Siem Reap, said Chan Yuttha, secretary-general of the Tonle Sap Authority.
“Based on our aerial flights, Siem Reap has the second most destruction [of flooded forests] after Kompong Thom,” said Mr Yuttha, who said 27 dams may be slated for demolition in the province’s Chi Kreng district alone.
According to Mr Yuttha, more than 500 hectares of flooded forest have been burned down to make way for farming in Pursat province as well.
Expansion of the work beyond Kompong Thom follows a July 2 letter from Prime Minister Hun Sen ordering the governors of all six provinces around the Tonle Sap to demolish or downsize their reservoirs. Hundreds of the reservoirs have appeared around the lake in recent years as businessmen and wealthy farmers have moved into its floodplains to convert local wetlands and flooded forests into irrigation reservoirs for large-scale rice farms.
The premier’s order covers zones three and two, which include the Tonle Sap’s floodplains and the land immediately adjacent, respectively. Reservoirs in zone three, where farming has been entirely banned, will be destroyed. Those in zone two, where some farming is still permitted, will each be scaled back by 60 percent.
Battambang provincial governor Prach Chan said yesterday that bulldozers were actively working on three dams in Thma Koul district.
In Siem Reap province, regional Fisheries Administration cantonment chief Tim Savouth said two dams had been demolished in Chi Kreng district since Tuesday.
Mr Savouth noted that some of the province’s dams were built by local communities for subsistence, and that their requests to preserve the reservoirs would be sent to the Tonle Sap Authority for review.