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First national round table

24 October 2001

Issues and achievements of the past decade: Lessons and challenges for ensuring the contribution of conservation areas to socio-economic development in Cambodia

Kol Vathana, Vice-Director of Department of Nature Conservation and Protection, Ministry of Environment

  1. National protected area system
  2. Government policy for protected area management
  3. Government institutions related to protected area management
  4. Protected area management issues
  5. Achievements
  6. Challenges
  7. Conclusions
1. National protected area system

With reference to the Royal Decree of 1 November 1993, the 23 protected areas in Cambodia are classified into four categories according to the basic management objectives of the IUCN protected areas management categories of the same name:

National Parks - Natural and scenic area of significance for their scientific, educational and recreational values (equivalent to IUCN category II - National Park). In total there are 7 national parks in Cambodia, 4 of which are coastal and marine protected areas (Phnom Bokor, Kep, Preah Sihanouk "Ream", and Botum-Sakor National Park).

Wildlife Sanctuaries - Natural areas where nationally significant species of flora or fauna, natural communities, or physical features requiring specific intervention for their perpetuation (equivalent to IUCN category IV - Wildlife sanctuary). There are totally 10 wildlife sanctuaries in Cambodia, one of which is coastal and marine protected area (Peam Krasop Wildlife Sanctuary).

Protected Landscapes - Nationally significant natural and semi-natural landscapes that must be maintained to provide opportunities for recreation and tourism (equivalent to IUCN category V - Protected Landscape). There are totally 3 protected landscapes in Cambodia.

Multiple-Use Areas - The areas that provide for the sustainability of water resources, timber, wildlife, fish, pasture, and recreation with the conservation of nature primarily oriented to support these economic activities (equivalent to IUCN category VIII - Multiple Use Management Area). There are totally 3 multiple-use areas in Cambodia, one of which is a coastal and marine protected area (Dong Peng Multiple-Use Area).

In addition to the above four categories, some selected protected areas of special regional and/or international significance may be elevated to a more specific and important status if specific criteria are met:

UNESCO Men and Biosphere Reserve (MAB Reserve) - The Tonle Sap Multiple-Use Area was nominated as Cambodia's first MAB Reserve in 1997 and was approved by UNESCO in 1997 (the Ministry of Environment serves as the National Focal Point for this MAB reserve).

Ramsar Site - Cambodia is the 116th party of the Ramsar Convention, which places a general obligation on member countries to conserve wetlands of international importance. The Boeung Chmar portion of Tonle Sap Multiple-Use Area (28,000 ha), the Koh Kapik wetland and associated islets in the Peam Krasop Wildlife Sanctuary (12,000 ha), and the middle stretches of the Mekong River Area between Stoeng Treng and the border with Laos (14,600 ha) were designated as Ramsar Sites at the time of Cambodia's accession to the Convention.

UNESCO World Heritage Site - National heritage sites that can be considered to be of outstanding universal values and fulfil criteria as set forth for cultural sites and/or natural sites as judged by the World Heritage Committee according to specific guidelines.

ASEAN Heritage site - Candidate sites will be national parks and nature reserves that deserve the highest recognition so that their importance can be recognised regionally or internationally. Common co-operation is necessary to conserve and manage such parks and reserves including the setting up of regional conservation and management action as well as a regional mechanism complementary to and supportive of national efforts at implementation of conservation measures. As the newest member of ASEAN, Cambodia has not yet submitted a candidate as an ASEAN Heritage Site, but currently Cambodia is developing a List of National Heritage Sites.

Map of protected areas in Cambodia Protected areas in Cambodia


2. Government policy for protected area management

Existing legal and policy framework

  • Sub-Decree on the Creation and the procedures of the Ministry of Environment
  • Law on Environmental Protection and Natural Resources Management
  • Royal Decree on the "Creation and Designation of Protected Areas" of 1 November
  • Land Law
  • Forest Policy and Forest Law
  • Fisheries Policy and Fisheries Law
  • Tourism Policy

International agreements of relevance for protected areas and biodiversity of which Cambodia is a signatory

  • CITES Ratified in October 1997
  • RAMSAR Convention Ratified in 23 October, 1999
  • Biodiversity Convention Ratified in 9 February, 1996
  • The Natural and Cultural World Heritage Site Convention Ratified in 1998
  • The Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Ratified in 1997

Existing national protected areas plans

  • National Environmental Action Plan (NEAP - 1998 to 2002)
  • National Wetland Action Plan (1997)


3. Government institutions related to protected area management

  • Ministry of Environment
    • The Department of Nature Conservation and Protection
    • Provincial and Municipal Environment Departments
  • Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries
    • Department of Forestry and Wildlife
    • Department of Fisheries
    • Provincial/ Municipal Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries
  • Ministry of Land Management, Urbanisation, and Construction
  • Ministry of Tourism
  • Ministry of Rural Development
  • Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology
  • Provincial/ Municipal Authorities


4. Protected area management issues

  • Protected areas are usually surrounded by forest concessions.
  • There is little public understanding of the concept of protected areas.
  • The Ministry of Environment lacks human resources, technical capability, experience and facilities to manage protected areas.
  • All protected areas have been subject to varying intensities of logging.
  • There are still many small scale logging activities associated with armed people in protected areas.
  • Small scale illegal logging and transportation of timber and wildlife near international borders continues.
  • There is a lack of community management.
  • Land encroachment.
  • New districts for the defected Khmer Rouge.
  • New roads.
  • Unclear physical boundaries between protected areas and forest concessions.
  • Overlapping mandate and responsibilities.
  • The staff of the Ministry of Environment and protected area rangers have limited powers of law enforcement.


5. Achievements

  • Protected Area Unit
  • Establishment of the National Committee on Discussion, Recommendation, and Conflict Resolution for Protected Area Management.
  • Physical demarcation of the boundaries of some protected areas.
  • Introduction of community participation in protected area management.
  • New initiatives to strengthen experience in protected area management.
  • More interest and involvement from government agencies and the public.
  • Suppression and prevention of violations.
  • Adoption of the new Royal Decree on the Creation and Management of Tonle Sap Biosphere Reserve
  • Implementation of projects and case studies on protected area management.


6. Challenges

  • A lack of facilities and resources for the implementation of the Protected Area Unit.
  • The National Committee on Discussion, Recommendation, and Conflict Resolution for Protected Area Management and its Sub-committees.
  • Some protected areas are still facing problems regarding the demarcation of their physical boundaries.
  • Limitations to the initiatives to strengthen experience in protected area management.
  • Legal instruments still need some clarification and development.
  • Promotion of public and stakeholder participation.
  • The sharing of data and information.
  • Poor administrative and institutional management.


7. Conclusions

In general, there are many initiatives by government and stakeholders for protected area management and also there is potential for this development, but human resources, facilities, technical support and funding are the required for effective success. It is of utmost importance to provide necessary support as follows:

  • Upgrading capacity;
  • Institutional strengthening in terms of both capability and administratively;
  • Resources;
  • Establishment of specific and clear laws and policy etc.