PHNOM PENH, Aug. 7 (Xinhua) -- The Cambodian government on Sunday canceled a housing development project near the famed Tamao Mountain Zoo in the southern Takeo province after heavy criticism over deforestation.
The government has approved the mega housing project and the local real estate developer firm for the project has recently begun to clear hundreds of hectares of the forest land there.
The move has drawn public criticism about the destruction of forest and biodiversity.
Cambodian Prime Minister Samdech Techo Hun Sen said there have been many requests to the government for saving the forest near the zoo, although the agriculture ministry had said the development project would not affect the zoo.
"As the head of the royal government, I would like to cancel all licenses that had been granted for the swap and the development," he wrote on his official Facebook page.
Hun Sen also ordered the developer firm to stop its forest-clearing activities and replant tree seedlings on the cleared land.
The prime minister also directed the agriculture ministry to keep the land and forest surrounding the Tamao Mountain Zoo as a protected area.
The Phnom Tamao Zoological Park and Wildlife Rescue Center, better known as the Tamao Mountain Zoo, is located in Takeo province's Bati district, about 40 km south of the national capital Phnom Penh.