Barriers and opportunities in management and conservation of protected areas in Cambodia

Protected area has long history in natural reserve in Cambodia and its idea is not new to this nation. It has been introduced for not only management and conservation of ecosystem but also protection of cultural value and landscape. In 1925, 10,800 hectares of forests surrounding Angkor temple was declared as the first national park in Southeast Asia. To respond to the loss of biodiversity in the nation, conservation and management effort has been made continuously. In 1957, one third of country has been allocated into 173 forest reserves and six wildlife reserves and most of those sites currently declared as the protected areas which offer recreation services to the society along with nature conservation. The long delay of civil war caused the management of protected areas to collapse and over the past decade effort was made to restore the protected area systems into practical sense. In 1993, the King Norodom Shihanouk issued the decree on a new national protected area system. Ministry of Environment is responsible for the management and development an area of 3,327,200 ha in cooperation with Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fishery.The Royal Decree 126 on “The Creation and Designation of Protection Area” designates 23 protected areas which constitute to 19 percent of the country. In addition, four management categories was defined, namely (1) national parks, (2) wildlife sanctuaries, (3) protected landscapes, and (4) multiple-use management areas. Until February 2008, law on protected areas was approved and it defined the clear roles, obligations and authority of different stakeholders. The increase of number of fish sanctuaries and protected forest areas set up through Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fishery bring the national protected area up to 21 percent of the nation. Even though protected area systems have been put in place, the implementations are still in process and face many challenges. In contrast, there are also some opportunities for protected areas in Cambodia.