The Environment Ministry is urging people, especially youth, to take part in the protection of forests and natural resources as the government is lacking manpower and equipment.
Kong Siek Ly, director of the community living department at the ministry, said on Saturday that a total of about 7.5 million hectares of land need protection.
However, there are only about 1,260 forest rangers currently available to carry out the task, Mr Siek Ly said, noting that the rangers are also facing difficulties due to a lack of equipment.
“There are more than seven million hectares of protected land, there are only about 1,260 rangers and that’s a lot for rangers to protect,” he said during a youth forum held by the Cambodian Youth Network. “That’s about 6,000 hectares of land each ranger has to protect.”
“Some rangers have guns, while others do not,” Mr Siek Ly added. “There is only one gun for every five to six rangers. So, if a perpetrator has a gun, our rangers will find the situation challenging.”
Despite the challenges, a total of 153 communities living in protected areas are working with the ministry to protect forests and natural resources.
Mr Siek said that others, especially the youth, must participate in ensuring the protection of forests.
CYN vice president Sar Mory yesterday said there are two main challenges in forest protection. The first is a shortage of rangers and the second is law enforcement by authorities.
However, Mr Mory said he supports the ministry for calling on the youth to help protect the Kingdom’s natural resources.
“We have the responsibility to contribute to the protection of natural resources. However, I think the government must also improve the quality of work conducted by institutions by fully enforcing the law,” he said. “This is not the first time the ministry is calling for greater participation. Some communities and youths in the past attempted to participate, but were met with threats and accusations from opposing groups.”
Ek Sovanna, a Prey Lang community representative in Kratie province, yesterday said there needs to be a balance between the amount of rangers and the amount of protected land to be covered.
Mr Sovanna said rangers must strengthen their control over areas, while law enforcement agencies must be firm when dealing with forestry crimes.
“There aren’t enough rangers to patrol forests because protected forests are huge, sometimes there are no roads leading into and out of forests,” he said. “But there are ranger stations, so when a crime is committed, it should be seen.”
“Communities play a role in the protection of forests and we have been involved for a long time. For me, I want the protection of forests and natural resources to be effective,” he added. “Environmental officials should deploy and strengthen forces to prevent trafficking and unauthorised entry. If they still allow unauthorised people to go in and out of protected forests, how can forests be protected?”