via Khmer NZ News Media
PHNOM PENH, Cambodia
Cambodia announced plans Thursday to conserve forested shore areas around Tonle Sap, Southeast Asia's largest freshwater lake.
Sam Nov, a deputy director of the country's Fisheries Administration, said that some 1.6 million acres (640,000 hectares) of forest land that floods during rainy season with be declared off-limits for development, including encroachment by farmers planting rice.
The lake covers about 618,000 acres (250,000 hectares) during the dry season and expands to about 3 million acres (1.25 million hectares) during the rainy season. It is the habitat for more than 200 species of fish, 42 types of reptiles, 225 species of birds and 46 kinds of mammals.
"The flooded forests are very vital shelters for several species ... and their offspring," Sam Nov said. "We urgently need to conserve this forest. If not we will lose it forever."
Several areas of flooded forest and wetlands have already been cleared by farmers and agribusiness companies in recent years to convert the land for dry season farming, he said.
Officials from the six provinces that surround the lake, located about 120 miles (200 kilometers) northwest of the capital Phnom Penh, will soon begin informing villagers of the ban on destroying the forest areas, said Sam Nov.