Fight on to keep dam from turning pristine paradise into 'death valley'
An unlikely alliance has been formed to block efforts to flood the Central Cardamon Protected Forest to make way for a dubious hydroelectric project that puts the future of the indigenous people and the multitude of wildlife that live there in doubt
Recognised internationally as a natural treasure of biodiversity, Cambodia's Central Cardamom Protected Forest faces mounting pressure from agricultural clearance and infrastructure projects. Now an unlikely alliance of Buddhist monks, students and farmers has started to speak out against the threats, and have even taken to blessing trees in an effort to save them.
On a mission to see the forest and speak to the people most affected by the threat to it, the remote Areng Valley was our destination _ 55km through the jungle along what I was to discover was more an overgrown path than a road. During the rainy season it becomes impassable, cutting off the inhabitants for months on end. I climbed into pillion position on the dilapidated luggage-laden scooter with some trepidation.
The hidden valley is home to 1,600 mainly Khmer Daeum indigenous people and a final refuge of 31 endangered species. This includes one of the only breeding sites of the critically endangered wild Siamese crocodile, numbering only 200 globally. With government plans to dam the valley, flooding more than 20,000 hectares of protected forest and farmland, the future for all its inhabitants looks bleak.
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