First-Ever Environment Week Aims To Educate Community

National Environment Week started Monday with dozens of events to be held by public institutions and NGOs through Saturday to raise awareness of environmental issues in Cambodia.

“The main objective is simply to awaken Cambodian consciousness, especially in Phnom Penh, to the environmental cause,” said Laurent Saint-Martin, project coordinator for GERES Cambodia, who is organizing the week on behalf of the En­vironment Ministry, the French Embassy and other organizations.

The event also aims to teach Cambodians everyday practices to protect their local environment.

“The accelerated development of the country cannot, and should not, be accompanied by a downgrading of the population’s quality of life, security and health,” French Em­bassy spokeswoman Fabyene Man­sencal said in an e-mail.

This first Environment Week, set to become an annual event, focuses on young people and students.

“The environment is a topic that first affects future generations,” Saint-Martin said. “We wanted the youth in particular to be reached.”

Environment Week was born out of the success of the Environmental Film Festival organized last year, he said. The festival, now in its second edition, will show movies on Cam­bo­dian environmental issues at 7 pm every night through Friday at the French Cultural Center.

The Bophana Audiovisual Re­source Center participated in the 2007 film festival and joins again this year. Starting today, the center will host an exhibit by Thai photographer Suthep Kritsanavarin on the Khone Falls at the Laos-Cambodia border.

A hydroelectric dam being constructed there is disrupting the migratory patterns of endangered giant catfish, which will ultimately affect the lives of Cambodian communities downstream, said Aurelie Colladon, spokeswoman for the Bophana Center. Representatives of those communities will be present at the opening night event today at 5:30 pm, she said.

The Phnom Penh municipality is also organizing exhibits and debates at Wat Phnom.

For a full schedule of events, visit: www.environment-week.­org.

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