Outside Siem Reap, tucked away at the foot of the Phnom Kulen massif, a Cambodian company challenges the big names in the world of water. But Kulara Water is doing more than just bottling the finest H2O the Kingdom has to offer. Its sustainable business practices and a focus on community education earned it the 2019 Corporate Social Responsibility award from Cambodia’s European Chamber of Commerce.
After identifying a natural reservoir of mineral water located in the beauty of the Phnom Kulen mountains – an area with a cultural history dating back to the birth of the Khmer Empire – the Kulara team realized the value of the natural environment that surrounds the site. Chosen for its low population density and the purity of the water, the pristine natural environment would need protection if a sustainable relationship between nature and business development was to be maintained.
This led the Kulara Water team to purchase an additional 32 hectares of land in 2017 with a focus on preserving the ecosystem. However, simply safeguarding the existing site wasn’t enough for the ambitious and environmentally conscious group.
Since its inception in 2018, the Kulara Water Reforestation Program has planted over 30,000 trees on the privately owned and protected ecological space, many of which are endangered species. Over the next decades, these rare hardwoods will grow and enhance the beauty of the area and play an important part in ecological regeneration, as Kulara consultant, Nimith Chheng explained:
“They are playing a fundamental role in terms of carbon capture, rain precipitation, food security, and biodiversity conservation. They also participate actively in the fertilization and enrichment of the soils with organic matter and contribute to the prevention of external contamination and soil erosion.”
We are convinced that youth education plays a leading role in raising awareness
Due to the historical significance of the area, Kulara has worked closely with the Archaeological & Development Foundation which has been active in the Kulen Massif area for the past 12 years. The trees that are currently growing in Kulara’s nurseries will eventually reforest 800 hectares of archaeological land within the protected area.
As the Kulara team’s efforts at reforestation progressed, they realized the importance of another component of the Kulen Massif ecosystem: bees. To promote biodiversity and a healthier biome, in association with the NGO Agrisud International, efforts were combined to reintroduce the Giant Apis Dorsata, a large and endangered species of bee native to the area.
Chheng emphasized Kulara’s additional goal of raising awareness of the importance of environmental stewardship in the younger Cambodian generation. “Beyond Kulara Water’s own tree nursery, three other nurseries have been set up in the primary schools of Ta Penh, Sangke Lak, and Anlong Thom villages as we are convinced that youth education plays a leading role in raising awareness among their elders, in a real circular action plan.”
The Kulara Team believes this is an essential part of securing Cambodia’s social and economic future in a world increasingly beset by the realities of climate change. Chheng is optimistic about Kulara’s role as an example of sustainable and ecologically responsible business in Cambodia:
“We believe that our voluntary initiatives will raise awareness in younger generations about the necessity to protect natural resources and that our concrete results, which take into account the three pillars of sustainable development, will inspire other private companies and leading economic players to become more involved.”
This article was first published in Globe Media Asia’s Focus Cambodia 2021-22 magazine.