To counter farmers clearing the flooded forest ringing Tonle Sap lake, government and fishery community officials said yesterday that they had started replanting trees in the floodplains of Kompong Thom province.
Nao Thuok, director of the fishery administration, said yesterday that the new forest was required to help save fish habitats and that fisheries officials planned to replant about 5,000 hectares in the provinces surrounding the lake each year.
“We will plant flooded trees in the areas where the forest was cleared for farms,” Mr Thuok said, adding that some of the cleared areas would be able to regrow by themselves when farming was banned around the lake.
“If local authorities help to prevent the land clearing, the flooded forest will regrow fast,” he said.
Last year, the government’s Tonle Sap Authority reported that a comparison of aerial photographs from 2005 and 2010 indicated that out of a total of 700,000 hectares of flooded forest, 160,000 hectares—or about 20 percent—had been lost in the six provinces surrounding the Tonle Sap.
Most of the flooded forest destruction occurred in Kompong Thom and Siem Reap provinces, where businessmen have undertaken large-scale land conversions for commercial rice farming, officials said at the time. The Tonle Sap Authority is currently in the process of demarcating a 640,000-hectare conservation area around the lake as a fish habitat.
Ky Sovannarith, chief of the Kompong Thom fisheries cantonment, said officials and fishing communities had started the replanting project in Kompong Thom earlier this year. He said the forest would flourish when there was support for its conservation from all local people and authorities.
Minh Bunly, Tonle Sap coordinator for FACT, an NGO involved in fisheries, said reforesting the area was vital for the sustainability of the fishing industry.
“Generally, villagers are clearing the forest but the rich and powerful are also involved with their rice farms,” Mr Bunly said, adding that local fisheries communities were advised to keep an eye on people illegally clearing the flooded forests.