Nearly $5M Slated to Protect Park in Northeast

A nearly $5 million project to protect a national park in the northeast is set to launch this month, officials announced Wed­nesday.

The four-year, so-called biodiversity and protected areas management project will help preserve the 332,500-hectare Vira­chey National Park, one of Cam­bodia’s largest national parks.

Virachey, in Ratanakkiri and Stung Treng provinces, is rich in animal and plant life but has been under threat in recent years from loggers and wildlife poachers.

The project will be funded with $4.4 million in grants and loans from the World Bank and the Global Environmental Facility, in addition to $250,000 from government coffers, officials said at a news conference Wednesday.

Glenn Morgan of the World Bank said the Virachey project will serve as a model for similar efforts in the future.

Not only will it help train park staff and protect park wildlife, but the project will help mark boundaries with neighboring countries, officials said. Virachey borders the Chu Mon Ray National Park in Vietnam and the Dong Am­phan conservation area in Laos.

Officials stressed that the new project will build on progress already made in similar efforts. World Wide Fund for Nature already has trained rangers in Virachey, conducted wildlife surveys and implemented other conservation efforts.

But government officials said that park management has been hampered by limited funds and training.

Chhan Saphan, secretary of state for the Ministry of Environ­ment, said the project could foster the government’s recent commitments to curtail the exploitation of natural resources.

“The project will help the ministry develop and test proactive measures,” he said.

The Chinese-Cambodian Pea­ph­i­mex Fuchan company gained a controversial logging concession adjacent to the park in 1998, and its logging practices in the past prompted environment officials to propose a 100-km “buffer zone” last year at the park’s boundary. The proposal so far has been unsuccessful.

Also last year, poachers alleg­edly planted land mines and traps to slaughter tigers for their bones and hides. Minister of Environ­ment Mok Mareth said local participation will be essential to the project’s success.

 

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