Capital’s Shrinking Lakes Draw Fire

Photo from Facebook account Rak Sa.

Royal Academy president calls for tourist role

PHNOM PENH--The president of the Royal Academy of Cambodia has criticized the continued filling in of natural lakes, saying it will have impacts in many ways. Instead, he says they should be used as tourist attractions.

Sok Touch spoke about lake removal in Phnom Penh at a seminar on Chinese language teacher training at the Royal Academy of Cambodia on September 6. He said continuing to fill up natural lakes is nothing to be proud of.

“In the past, filling up the lakes was not a problem because there were many lakes,” Touch said. “But now, there is only one lake left, Tamok Lake, which is being filled again. Does this bring pride? What pride?”

“In the past, there were Boeung Snor Lake, Boeung Tompun Lake and many more. Now we continue to erase the one remaining lake. This has an impact.”

Although some natural areas have been destroyed, Sok Touch says  Cambodia still has many appealing natural areas that can be used as tourist destinations. He said lakes are a natural phenomenon that he wants to keep as tourist attractions.

“We like to fill them up with soil. Those who fill them up should not be angry with me. I’m speaking the truth,” he said. “We fill them up with soil too often, not like others. Other countries create a boat ride on the lake. I went to Beijing and South Korea and took a boat trip.”

Lakes can be places for fishing, places to show the fishing culture of local people, an artificial tourist site, for ziplining across the lake or boat tours, Sok Touch suggested. He said lakes can be places to ease a mental or emotional burden or distress.

In late August, the government rejected the proposal of a construction company to buy a 1,000-hectare lake, called Boeng Veal Samnab, in Kandal province. The public applauded the move, urging the government to keep preserving other lakes.

However, government spokesman Phay Siphan said in an interview on September 3 that the condition of each lake is not the same. If any lake is to be kept for public benefit, the government will keep it. But if any lake is to be removed for development, it will be inevitably erased.

Erasing lakes in Phnom Penh can cause flooding and affect the people who have been benefiting from those lakes.

Twenty-six lakes in Phnom Penh have been filled in, of which 16 have vanished and 10 have been partially erased, according to the report released in late 2019 by Sahmakum Teang Tnaut (STT Cambodia).

Tamok Lake or Kob Srov Lake is considered to be the last vast natural lake in Phnom Penh that civil society organizations are concerned about. The lake is in the northern part of Phnom Penh and has an area of more than 3,2000 hectares. So far, the government has given nearly 1,000 hectares of the lake to state institutions and private companies.

“Phnom Penh is located in a lowland area, so lakes and ponds need to be erased for development to respond to the needs of the whole country,” Sok Eysan, spokesperson of the Cambodian People's Party, said on September 6.

Additional reporting by Teng Yalirozy

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