Protected Ghost Forest Areas: A Benefit for Fisheries, Natural Resource Conservation and Livelihood of the Local Community in Plov Touk

Kampong Chhnang province, Cambodia: The Ghost Forest is a flooded forest at a distance of about 700 m from the Peam Khnorng village along the Plov Touk creek. Clearing of patches of the forest and fishing by those living outside the commune are resulting in environmental degradation. If this area is better protected, it can support biodiversity and improve fisheries’ resources. IUCN and its partner Fisheries Action Coalition Team (FACT) have selected this site to implement an EU-funded project to strengthen the capacity of local fishermen in sustainable and ecologically responsible ways.

Ghost Forest lake

 Also called the ‘spirit forest’, the Ghost Forest is where there are many large flooded trees. The villagers believe that their ancestors’ spirits live in the forest. , “It is called ghost forest because when a villager passes away during the flood season, the body with the coffin will be placed on top of the tree because there is nowhere else to cremate the body”, says Mr CHOUN Chim, a Buddhist priest in the village.

There are two other areas in proximity to the Ghost Forest; the Ghost Forest Lake and the Deep-Pool. The Ghost Forest Deep-Pool is part of Plov Touk navigation creek, located to the south of the forest. It is about 40 m wide, 600 m long and 3-4 m deep during the dry season. The Ghost Forest Lake is located to the north of the forest, and it has a similar size to that of the creek. The villagers also mentioned that during the operation of fishing-lots, a lot owner can catch more than 10 tonnes of fish from the lake every year.

“There are many underground lakes connected to the Plov Touk creek. If the place is well protected, it can support biodiversity and improve fisheries’ resources”, said the Chief of Kampong Pluk Commune Community Fisheries.

A commune council member said that the area is a highly attractive place for tourists, because it is home to fireflies. If the region is well protected and conserved, the villagers will be able to gain huge benefits from the forest and ecotourism to support their families

In the recent years, the area has been invaded by those living outside of the commune and a few nearby households. Some farmers have cleared patches of the forest for agricultural purposes such as planting seasonal crops like beans, sesame, pumpkin and corn during the dry season. There are also many outsiders who come for fishing to the lake and canal every year. These activities will lead to the destruction of mother fish and other species in the area.

Sooner or later, if there is no intervention to protect the Ghost Forest area, it will be devastated. To protect the forest sustainably for the economic and cultural benefits of local communities, community fisheries members have asked the Fisheries Administration as well as development partners to provide support for capacity building, legal documents, and some equipment used for patrols.

Over the past few years, conservation and protection activities of aquatic resources and flooded forests have been limited. Much needs to be done in order to ensure the long-term sustainability of those resources in the commune. “To address these challenging issues, the EU-funded project currently is being jointly implemented by IUCN and its partner FACT. We selected this site as one of the three pilot sites, to strengthen the capacity of community fisheries by integrating its conservation activities into fisheries’ Management Plans and Commune Investment Plans”, says Mr SORN Pheakdey, Water and Wetlands Field Coordinator of IUCN Cambodia.

By: KHIEV Vuthoun, Field Coordinator, Fact

For more information, please kindly contact:
Mr. KONG Kimsreng, Senior Programs Officer, IUCN Cambodia
Mr. SORN Pheakdey, Water and Wetlands Coordinator, IUCN Cambodia
Ms. SAY Chenda, Communication Officer, IUCN Cambodia

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