Kampot Fishers Wary of Ecotourism Proposal in Estuary

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1-hectare plot of sea off the coast of Kampot. Image: William Guang

Two companies are planning ecotourism developments in Kampot province estuaries amid growing concerns among local fishing communities as a consultation forum was canceled amid Covid-19.

Two companies, travel firm 3K IG and real estate company MNT Investment, have applied for permission to build the ecotourism projects on an estuary in Toek Chhou district, said Kounsat commune chief Yin Thy.

But few details were available and the proposals are yet to be approved, Thy said.

A letter dated July 27 from the Kampot provincial department of agriculture says authorities planned to hold a public forum about the proposals. The event was canceled, however, due to Covid-19.

Sok Kao, head of the Kampong Samaky fishing community in the area, said he feared thousands of families’ livelihoods could be directly and indirectly impacted due to loss of fishing.

He said there was distrust among the local residents.

“The companies have a lot of tricks to gain benefits. They do not care about the impact on us. Just do something and make a profit. I think there will be a lot of challenges in the future until we lose the [natural] resources completely,” Kao said.

Provincial officials also seemed to be trying to persuade residents to support the plan, he added.

Provincial agriculture department director Chan Rith, who was accused of trying to persuade the community to support the company’s investment plan, declined to comment, saying he didn’t know about the development. “What project is it?” he asked.

Previous coastal and waterside developments in Kampot province have also met local resistance, with groups alleging detrimental impacts on livelihoods and biodiversity.

The Ching Kor port and special economic zone project also in Toek Chhou district, linked to a late senator, has sparked fears among locals. Elsewhere in Kampot, some 80 hectares of the coast were granted to a company, IGB Cambodia, earlier this year to develop an artificial beach.

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