The government will not demolish the illegal man-made reservoirs in the Tonle Sap lake’s floodplains until next dry season after recent downpours made the area inaccessible, an official said yesterday. The announcement means that authorities this year have failed to remove any of reservoirs, which are threatening the lake’s pressured fisheries.
Chan Youttha, secretary-general of the Tonle Sap Authority, said removal of reservoirs had to be postponed because of weather conditions.
“Because the water goes up very fast, we could not move the machinery,” Mr Youttha said. “We have to put off the demolition till next dry season, but we do not back down.”
In mid-2010, Prime Minister Hun Sen ordered the destruction of the dozens of massive reservoirs around the lake, as the structures had removed tens of thousands of hectares of flooded forests and floodplains, which are considered vital fish-breeding areas. Businessmen had built the illegal reservoirs in recent years to irrigate huge commercial rice farms.
After the order, officials got off to a vigorous start, removing 45 reservoirs last year. However, this year officials had not managed to remove even a single dam, Mr Youttha said.
He said that crews had planned to dismantle reservoirs—each covering about one square kilometer—at 19 sites in Siem Reap province and 13 in Kompong Thom province and to downsize 39 others in both provinces.
He offered no explanation for the lack of action this year, saying only that fields surrounding the reservoirs slated for destruction could not be used for rice farming.
Officials did finish demarcating a 640,000-hectare protected zone around the lake and placed 800 concrete border demarcation poles in six provinces this year.
Minh Bunly, Tonle Sap coordinator for fisheries NGO FACT, said authorities’ inaction was a lost opportunity, as illegal reservoirs should be dismantled soonest in order to prevent further destruction of the lake’s shrinking flooded forests.