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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Depth of Tonle Sap

Depth of Tonle Sap

The Editor,

With reference to Mr. Grainger's article on the UNDP-funded project "Natural

Resources Based Development Strategy for the Tonle Sap Region," we would like

to confirm that this project, requested as a high priority by the Royal Government

of Cambodia, is the product of more than one year and a half of in-depth consultation

and review with relevant ministries of the Royal Government (including Agriculture

and Environment) as well as such important partners as UNESCO, FAO, World Bank, several

NGOs, the Mekong River Commission and the Cambodian National Mekong Committee (CNMC).

Intensive discussions over a long period with all of these partners have resulted

in the identification of both operational and funcitional areas for collaboration

and coordination, as well as in uniform commitments of mutual cooperation.

Projects of these agencies which have started within this timeframe have done so

in full knowledge of the plans for the UNDP-funded project; in turn, the UNDP-funded

project work plan has been revised since its signing to take into account on-going

and pending data collection activities being conducted by other organisations (such

as FAO and World Bank) which will constitute valuable inputs into the eventual long-term

management plan.

Clearly these efforts will not be duplicated; in fact, the inter-ministerial nature

of the national team for this project (with representatives from Ministries of Agriculture

and Environment and others) will ensure that all on-going activities relevant to

the Tonle Sap Lake area are optimized

Contrary to Mr. Grainger's assertion (which is not supported by the project document

or the consultants' Terms of Reference), the international experts will not be responsible

for formulating development strategies, either in two months or in 24.

The international experts will be responsible for training and capacity building

of the national team, and for providing punctual expert assistance and review of

the work that will be conducted by the national team.

The duration of the project is two years; during that time, it is the national team

which will conduct the core work and develop appropriate management strategies in

a fully participatory and consultative process at the national level. This approach

is fully described in the Project Document.

It should be noted that the selection of the counterpart institution, the CNMC, was

endorsed by the Royal Government in recognition of the fact that it is, by mandate,

a committee made up of relevant Government departments.

The CNMC has the critical added advantage of ensuring that the potential impacts

on the Tonle Sap Lake Area are fully inegrated and accounted for in any development

which may occur along the Mekong River, either in Cambodia or at the sub-regional

level.

As stated in Mr. Grainger's article, "the dyamics of the Mekong river depend

on the Great Lake as a reservoir and catchment." The ecosystems of the entire

Mekong river system are inherently interrelated and connected.

In consequence, by sub-decree number 12 of the CNMC, seven ministries of the Royal

Government of Cambodia agreed upon the CNMC as the most appropriate agency to ensure

that all the aspects are indeed considered to ensure sustainability.

UNDP feels that to separate the development planning and management of the Tonle

Sap Lake from the broader management practices of the Mekong river resources would

doom the Tonle Sap Lake to being the recipient of water resource development strategies

rather than one of the determinants of those stategies.

We feel this could have potentially disastrous long-term impact on the environmental

and socio-economic sustainability of the Tonle Sap Lake resources.

Finally, Mr. Grainger's article suggests that he researched the subjectly matter

widely; it is, therefore, with surprise that we note that UNDP, the major object

of the article, appears to have been contacted last.

As always, UNDP is pleased to invite Mr. Grainger and any other "critic"

to participate in the open exchange that has prevailed to date on this important

development issue to ensure maximum collaboration and cooperation in all our efforts.

- Andre Klap, Acting Resident Representative, UNDP, Phnom Penh.

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