The government has declared almost 1.5 million hectares as protected areas in a bid to enhance the sustainability of the ecology system and reduce the impact of climate change, according to a sub-decree signed on Thursday.
The so-called Biodiversity Conservation Corridors cover a total of more than 500,000 hectares in Keo Seima and Snuol districts as well as the Phnom Proek forest, another 170,000 hectares along the Phnom Kravanh mountains in Pursat and Koh Kong province, and almost 800,000 hectares in the Prey Lang and Kulen Prum Tep forests.
The new corridors will connect several already protected areas, which are off-limits to economic land concessions.
Ministry of Environment spokesman Sao Sopheap yesterday said these corridors are a necessity to protect wildlife. “We established the corridors to protect the ecology system,” he said.
According to Sopheap, with the addition of the new corridors, there are now 45 protected areas across the country encompassing more than 7 million hectares.
About 300 environmental officials will be deployed to monitor the newly protected areas, he said.
Asked about illegal logging that is routinely reported in the country’s protected areas, he denied it was happening on a large scale. “The illegal logging is still happening, but just on a small scale”, he said.
Chea Hean, director of the Natural Resource and Wildlife Organization, offered a different view, saying large amounts of wood was still be removed from protected areas.
“[Illegal logging] has not decreased and is still happening. They just changed the transport method . . . For example, they used to load about 30 cubic metres on one truck, and now they use 20 to 30 home-made trucks, which can carry between 1.5 and 2 cubic meters each,” he said.
Prey Lang Community Network coordinator Seng Sokheng said he welcomed the government’s latest move, but agreed with Hean that logging still took place in ostensibly protected areas, singling out Prey Lang and Prey Pheah Rokar.
“I want to see the government take efficient action to combat illegal logging. We still see that some protected areas . . . are facing illegal logging from loggers who are high-ranking officials,” he said.