More Dam Demolitions Under Way in K Thom

Work crews have demolished six reservoirs in Kompong Thom province in the government’s latest push to protect the area’s flooded forests from man-made reservoirs around Tonle Sap lake, the Mini­ster of Water Resources said yesterday.

A team of 27 bulldozers have been at work demolishing reservoirs in the province since last week, Minister Lim Kean Hour said during a press conference yesterday at the offices of the Tonle Sap Authority, which he also chairs.

“We have committed to doing this work for the sake of the country,” he said.

Hundreds of man-made reservoirs have sprung up around the lake in recent years as businessmen and wealthy farmers moved into its floodplains to convert local wetlands and flooded forests into irrigation reservoirs for large-scale rice farms.

Prime Minister Hun Sen has ordered a halt to further agricultural expansion along the lake’s shores and demolition of many of the existing reservoirs. Work crews finished demolishing the first 15 reservoirs in early May.

The latest push follows a June 21 letter from Mr Kean Hour informing provincial governor Chhun Chhorn that work would soon resume in zones three and two, which cover the lake’s floodplains and the land immediately adjacent, respectively.

“[Reservoirs] in zone three must be completely demolished and cannot be spared in order to allow re­forestation,” Mr Kean Hour said yesterday, noting that the structures had each cost between $80,000 and $100,000 to build.

Reservoirs in zone two, meanwhile, where some farming is allowed, would each be scaled back by 60 percent and cannot be more than 2.5 meters in height, he added.

The minister said 164 reservoirs were slated for destruction or downsizing in the province in all, and that the government had not set a deadline for completion of the work.

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