Monday, March 18, 2013

'Big rice' killing Khmer wetlands

 Mar 18, 2013
Bangkak Post

Around half of Cambodia's tropical flooded grasslands have been lost in just 10 years, mostly to new rice farms by new agrobusiness ventures, according to research published on Monday.
The sarus crane is one of 11 globally threatened bird species native to Cambodia's northwest grasslands, and threatened by massive commercial land grabs. This photo by Dr Charlotte Packman was released as part of a report by the University of East Anglia.

Scientists from England's University of East Anglia said big companies have swept into the region, blocked off local communities, and set up commercial rice farms.

"The loss of this entire ecosystem from Southeast Asia is imminent," they said bluntly.

Researchers around the Tonle Sap great lake in northwestern Cambodia called the loss "catastrophic". The area is a wildlife centre of biodiversity and, equally, "a vital fishing, grazing, and traditional rice farming resource for around 1.1 million people," the researchers said.

The research was summarised on Monday in a media release by UEA.

"Intensive commercial rice production by private companies, involving the construction of huge channels and reservoirs for irrigation, is denying local communities access to the grasslands on which their livelihoods depend and destroying a very important habitat for threatened wildlife," said the UEA researchers.

"This high-speed conversion and land-grabbing has intensified pressure on already threatened species and on the marginalised rural communities that depend on the grassland ecosystem."

The land grab by "big rice" threatens numerous bird species found in the grasslands area. Among them are sarus cranes, storks, ibises and eagles - and the critically endangered Bengal florican, the world's rarest bustard.

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