Areng river – life of the rainforest

Since the 1980s Cambodia has lost 84% of its primary forests, and the remote Cardamom mountains are the country’s last great natural treasure, writes Rod Harbinson. Just the place for grandiose dam projects? ‘No way!” say indigenous people and young eco-activists.
We don’t need any compensation because we are staying here on the lands of our ancestors. Our children will never forgive us if we move.
“Many forests are destroyed in Cambodia – Areng is the last of our great forest areas”, says Sothea Khmer a women’s activist from Phnom Penh, explaining why she is here at the road blockade protest camp:

“We want to stop the Chinese company here. We don’t want them to bring their machinery here to cut the trees, build a dam or dig mines in the Areng valley. The commitment from youth and monks joining us is that they have to stop the company. So they will dedicate their lives here.”

Her words highlight the dramatic decline of Cambodia’s forests which just ten years ago covered large swathes of the country. With some of the highest logging rates in the world it is estimated that since 1990, Cambodia lost 84% of its primary forests [UN FAO].

Now the struggle to save the untold natural riches of these ancient forests has closed in on this patch in the Cardamom mountains, still home to Asian elephants, clouded leopards and the most important breeding site of only 250 wild Siamese crocodiles found globally. Home in all to 31 endangered species.

Published in The Ecologist.

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