Sunday, October 24, 2010

Joining Effort for Sustainability of Tonle Sap Lake-An Historic Responsibility

Tonle Sap Lake is natural endowment of unfathomable value for the Cambodian people. Therefore, every Cambodian of generations to come has got an obligation to protect the Tonle Sap Lake so that it is there for long, in the present as well as in the future, and free from destructive threats, while continuing to provide immeasurably sustainable interest for the sake of Cambodian socio-economic development.

Tonle Sap is a natural lake of fresh water that is the biggest in Southeast Asian region. The lake is covering a size of 250,000 ha at the depth of between one and two meters in the dry season, while in the rainy season, its coverage extends to 1.35 million ha at the depth of about ten meters. The Cambodian people compare the lake to a small freshwater sea because of its immensity in size and its capacity as a natural water reservoir that is the best shelter for fish of various species.

The lake provides some 60% of freshwater fish from nationwide freshwater fish catch and is the world fourth biggest lake in terms of fish population. The lake provides for the livelihood for the Cambodian people, especially some four million Cambodians who are living in six provinces around the lake itself – Kompong Chhnang, Kompong Thom, Siem Reap, Banteay Meanjei, Battambang and Pursath.

Aside from fish, the lake and the surrounding areas have provided natural resources such as enormous biodiversity, inundated forest, various species of birds, meadow, wetland and mineral resources, which are providing food, energy and transport access for our people centuries already. Fisheries resources answer not only to local consumption but also to export demand.

Tonle Sap Lake is sure to have great potential whereby fish of all kinds is source of protein for human nutrition and livelihood. In terms of hydrology, Tonle Sap Lake provides freshwater for irrigation for farms that are in effect contributing to raising high agricultural productivity and people’s wellbeing. On the front of tourism, Tonle Sap Lake has the potential to attract tourists to come enjoy seeing and/or studying it. Furthermore, Tonle Sap Lake is a transport line that is important for agricultural, touristic and rural developments.

Therefore, our people will be facing with greatly disastrous risk if the lake is to be destroyed by actions of some self-centered people. A while ago, some self-centered persons infiltrated and claimed the lake’s inundated land, while fishing by illegal fishing tools and building reservoirs to catch and store water in the flood season for cultivation of rice in dry season had been noted.

These actions have caused siltation on the lake system in general, while polluted matters are also being washed down into the Lake and fish breeding grounds have been disturbed severely. From 2005 through to early 2010, the country has had a loss of some 48,170 hectares of inundated forest, while, if action is not taken in a timely manner, the rest is facing with complete destruction. It is in this note that decision has been made to protect 640,000 hectares of inundated forest. Many floating houses that are being constructed in the Lake of Tonle Sap could eventually cause negative impacts on environment.

Meanwhile, effect of climate change has brought about a state of less water in the system, especially in the time of fish breeding, whereby the fish population is getting smaller. Faced with these risks, the Royal Government of Cambodia has taken drastic measures to protect by means of conserving and also developing the lake and its vicinity as is defined in its Phase II Rectangular Strategy.

The Royal Government of Cambodia sets its objective to protect the Lake of Tonle Sap, while guaranteeing sustainability of natural environment and the Lake’s and concerned region’s biodiversity by implementing dynamic measures in removing reservoirs and constructions in Zone III of the zone defined for protection of Tonle Sap, while taking a close inspection on Zone II and Zone I, so as to guarantee essentiality of the lake geography, water current, fisheries, ecological system, and especially, livelihood of human, animals and plants.

Up to June 2010, as results of concrete actions taken by the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology, and concerned local authorities, 35 reservoirs in Zone I have been disassembled, ten reservoirs in Zone II have been restructured, a total of 20.45 km length canal has been filled up, a total of 120.45 km embankment has been dismantled, some 47.40 km2 small reservoirs have been reshaped, some 167 zone markers (at national level) and 121 zone markers (at provincial level) have been mounted, while an end has been put on clearance of inundated forest to claim land.

In order to achieve sustainable protection of the Lake of Tonle Sap and maintenance of richness of natural resources that are one of important sources for economic growth and poverty alleviation for the Cambodian people, the Royal Government under the leadership of Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen sets out a plan of actions that is obliging local authority at all levels to vehemently inspect and disassemble in a timely manner, improve network of all reservoirs, mount markers in protection of the zone of inundated forest, organize monitoring routine and take urgent measures against wrongdoing where it takes place.

On August 12, 2010, in closing a meeting on “Measures for Protection of the Tonle Sap Lake Region,” SamdechAkka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen said: “We must cooperate for effective protection of Tonle Sap Lake and its surrounding areas in the present as well as in the future.” Tonle Sap Lake is the nation’s pride and one of our national identities. To join effort in safeguarding and sustaining Tonle Sap Lake is a historic responsibility in the present and in the future for us all and for generations to come.

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