Kulen, Siem Reap (GDANCP)

Development Challenges

Phnom Kulen (“Kulen Mountain”) is located in the Siem Reap Province, about 48 km from the provincial town of Siem Reap where Angkor Wat Temples are located. The Phnom Kulen National Park (PKNP) was designed in 1993 and covers 37,375 hectares (ha).

Phnom Kulen has been of great archaeological, cultural, and religious significance. A popular place of pilgrimage, this “Mountain of Lychees” is considered by Khmers to be the most sacred mountain in Cambodia and the birthplace of the Cambodian Kingdom. More than 50 sacred ancient temples and sites dating back as far as the Eighth and Ninth Century have been identified across the high plateau of Phnom Kulen. Preah Ang Thom, 1000 linga is among the most visited sites of Phnom Kulen.

Its forest ecosystems provide critical habitats for several globally threatened species. The significant ecosystem services provided by the Park center on the vital role this largest forested area within Siem Reap Province plays as the main water source for Siem Reap town and the aquifer that maintains the stability of the Temples of Angkor. All the 36 headwaters of the Siem Reap River are located inside PKNP.

Its forest cover, however, has decreased significantly over the past decades, from about 42% in 2003 to as low as 25% presently. The downstream impacts of the depletion of forests in PKNP have the potential to severely affect the future development potential of Siem Reap Province and threaten the foundations of the Angkor World Heritage Site.

One of the main threats to the PKNP forest cover is the damaging agricultural practices and particularly slash and burn, and the illegal but widely spread monoculture of cashew nut. There are currently ten villages on Kulen Mountain, with a total population of around 4,600 people. Most of these villagers are subsistence farmers and these practices represent a direct threat to the park.

To address the growing threats, in 2017, with the support of UNDP/FCPF, the GDANCP/MoE has finalized the Phnom Kulen Management Plan and its Action Plan, to respond to the Phnom Kulen threats. The Action Plan has defined the protection, restoration and maintenance of the forested area, water sources and archaeological sites as priorities. Furthermore, UNDP is assisting the MoE to develop and operationalize Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) to cover the recurrent cost of park management in the Kulen Mountain.

While these recent efforts are conducive to the successful sustainable management of the national park and its conservation of archaeological sites and sustainable management of ecosystems of PKNP, there is an urgency to respond to eminent threats to deforestation and remaining ecosystems.

Overall objective

The main objective of the project is to contribute to reduce forest loss and degradation while promoting environmentally sustainable livelihoods and conservation of natural resources and cultural heritage in PKNP.

The objective fits into the REDD+ National Strategy (NRS) Strategic Objective (SO) 1: Improve management and monitoring of forest resources and forest land use and SO2: Strengthen implementation of sustainable forest management plan that aims to contribute to national and global climate change mitigation through improving the management of its natural resources and forest lands, and biodiversity conservation and sustainable development.

Full project document is here (PDF in EN)