Prime Minister Hun Sen on Monday signed off on a sub-decree that officially created a 640,000-hectare protected zone covering the flooded forest and floodplains of Tonle Sap lake.
The sub-decree determined that 647,406 hectares of flooded forest around Tonle Sap lake in Kompong Chhnang, Pursat, Battambang, Banteay Meanchey, Siem Reap and Kompong Thom provinces must be strictly protected from destruction.
It said the governors of the provinces around Tonle Sap lake carry full responsibility for this task.
“[In case of] loss of flooded forest areas and flooded plants within the competence of any provinces, the governing council of those provinces must be responsible to the government,” the sub-decree said.
Officials announced the creation of the protected area last year after they began a crackdown on hundreds of large-scale irrigation reservoirs, which businessmen had built illegally in recent years to irrigate commercial rice farms in the floodplains.
Officials have said in the past that there has been about 1 million hectares of seasonally inundated forest around the lake.
Mr Hun Sen also signed a sub-decree on Friday giving further direction to the provincial governors on his Aug 16 order to shut down 35 fishing lots on the Tonle Sap lake. The directive orders the governors of the provinces around the Tonle Sap to strictly monitor the influx of migrant fishermen into the area.
The governors of the five provinces “must protect the confiscated fishing lots by enforcing necessary means […] to crack down on illegal fishing,” the directive said.
The fishing lots were ordered closed after field inspections in June showed widespread use of illegal fishing traps in the lots.
Minh Bunly, Tonle Sap coordinator for fisheries NGO FACT, welcomed the latest steps taken by the government to protect the lake.
“This is very good. If [flooded] forest is properly protected and the [canceled] fishing lots are well controlled, then there would be lots of fish,” he said.
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