Wetlands threatened by coastal land grabs

Source : The Phnom Penh Post / Tue, 19 July 2016 by

authorities_inspect_a_construction_site_in_preah_sihanouk_earlier_this_year_after_a_construction_project_destroyed_hectares_of_mangrove_forest_along_the_provinces_coast_20_02_2016_supplied

Authorities inspect a construction site in Preah Sihanouk earlier this year after a construction project destroyed hectares of mangrove forest along the province’s coast. Photo supplied

The Council of Ministers has urged the Ministry of Land Management to crack down on coastal land grabbing in response to a report that found the practice was destroying the Kingdom’s wetlands.

The Post yesterday obtained a letter signed by Council of Ministers undersecretary Sou Phirin and sent on June 16 in response to a report produced by the Ministry of Agriculture 10 days earlier and signed off by the prime minister on June 13.

The report found that the Kingdom’s coastal mangrove swamps were being filled in and titles were being illicitly issued for the newly formed land in Preah Sihanouk, Kep, Kampot and Kong Kong provinces.

“Our ministry asked for intervention over the anarchic grabbing of mangroves happening in the coastal provinces,” Agriculture Ministry spokesman Lor Raksmey said yesterday.

In the June 16 letter, Phirin “recommended” that Land Management Minister Chea Sophara annul and withdraw land titles issued by the Ministry of Land Management and local officials for former mangrove swamps in the four provinces.

A senior Ministry of Land Management official, who asked for anonymity while the ministry formulates its official response, said they had inspected the listed sites and that land titles would be revoked, but did not specify how many.

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan did not respond to requests for comment on the matter.

Buon Narith, Preah Sihanouk provincial coordinator for rights group Licadho, yesterday said that in past two years, at least 100 hectares of mangrove had been filled in during land grabs in Prey Nop district and Sihanoukville alone.

Provincial Governor Yon Min said local authorities had already cracked down on many developments in former mangrove areas.

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