Minister Says Natural Habitats Under Siege From Developers

Cambodia’s natural habitats have been under siege for a dec­ade, the environment minister said Monday at a meeting of Cambodia’s three neighboring countries on development along the Mekong river.

“For [at least 10 years] our na­tional parks, wildlife sanctuaries and other protected areas have been under siege from development pressures,” Minister Mok Mareth, who also vice chairs the Mekong River Commission, told an audience of at least 100 people.

“It has been a continuing battle to control the harvesting of timber, wildlife and other products for short-term gain. It has been a battle to prevent protected areas from being steadily eaten away by encroachment, construction and infrastructure developments.”

Cambodian, Thai, Vietnamese and Lao officials agreed to “protect the environment,” but details of how they would do that were not provided Monday.

The meeting, sponsored by the Phnom Penh-based MRC, is part of a two-day conference looking at development and regional issues associated with the vast waterway. Joern Kristensen, MRC chief executive officer, said Monday that the meeting was a good chance for the four countries to agree to protect the Me­kong river area because the river is so vital to the region.

For example, he said 40 per­cent of the food production in Viet­nam comes from the Me­kong while 80 percent of  Cambo­dians depend on the river for food.

The MRC said in a statement it would review four objectives regarding the river, including ef­fective management of protected areas, biodiversity conservation and economic planning. It also will conduct a review of the past decade of management of the river and devise strategies and recommendations for regional development.

A review of the protected areas and development issues is being conducted in Thailand, Cambo­dia, Laos and Vietnam by their respective management agencies, the MRC statement said.


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