Hun Sen seeks support for river systems

K. Cham: Prime Minister Hun Sen on Saturday ordered all ministries and relevant institutions to prevent illegal sand dredging, fishing and the cutting down of mangrove trees.

Presiding over the 5th River Festival held in Kampong Chhnang province, Mr Hun Sen said that he ordered all relevant authorities to prevent illegal activities which destroy natural resources.

“We will find ways to address riverbank erosions which cause rivers to become shallow, prevent anarchic sand dredging, illegal fishing and destroying mangrove trees, which leads to the degradation of our rivers and affects tourism,” he said.

He said that the mangroves are the natural habitat of fishes and attract international tourists who love to see biodiversity.

“Cutting down mangrove tress not only impacts fisheries, but it also leads to a reduction of tourists who flock to the country to seek out biodiversity,” Mr Hun Sen said.

He said that apart from about 6.2 million foreign tourists who visit the Kingdom, there are also over 11 million domestic tourists visit natural attractions to enjoy its biodiversity.

“So we must work hard to preserve these areas,” he said. “A century ago, we had deep waters, abundant fish, and fewer people but today we have more people, fewer fish, and shallow waters because of anarchic activities such as sand-dredging, fishing, and logging.”

Srey Vuthy, spokesman at the Ministry of Agriculture, said that the ministry is heeding the prime minister’s call and has many measures in place to crimes leading to the loss of natural resources.

“We encourage the fishing community to join our efforts to prevent illegal fishing,” he said, adding that the ministry cooperates with the national committee for natural resources to crack down on illegal activities.

“We appeal to people to cooperate with the authorities and report any crimes they come across,” he added. “Please join the authorities to stop illegal activities which destroy our natural resources.”

Om Savath, executive director of Fisheries Action Coalition Team, said he hopes authorities heed Mr Hun Sen’s call.

“Sometimes, even with an order from the Prime Minister, low-level authorities do not listen, so this is our concern because we are losing natural resources,” said Mr Savath. “Even more worrisome is that it takes a call from the Prime Minister for some authorities to even take action; we want them to do this work without waiting for a speech from the Prime Minister.”