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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - 'Ethiopia' warning for Kingdom

'Ethiopia' warning for Kingdom

E NVIRONMENTALISTS predict unchecked logging will turn the Kingdom into another

Ethiopia. They say unless tree felling is stopped, even reforestation will be

unable to prevent the country being turned into a desert.

The damming of

the upper reaches of the Mekong River added to the loss of watersheds to logging

and a naturally poor water supply are all contributing to the desertification of

the country, said Daniel Henning, UNDP's environmental training

specialist.

Henning said, "Most of Cambodia's forests, unfortunately,

will be cut. Because of the environmental circumstances here, much of the future

is dependant on watersheds. This country will become the next

Ethiopia."

He explained the process: "When the natural forests are

cleared, there are no longer any plants or roots to preserve the topsoil. The

rains cause massive erosion and often flash floods, because the forests aren't

there to soak up the flow of water.

"The vital soil is lost, the ground

dries up, the forests can't regenerate. Crops can only be sustained for a year

on the depleted soil.

"The same thing happened in Ethiopia, which also

used to be a heavily forested country. The people had to keep moving and

cutting, plant as long as they could, move and cut. Look at it now."

When

asked about government-discussed policies of reforestation, Henning replied,

"Reforestation is an expensive myth. It rarely happens. Besides, you simply

cannot restore natural watersheds."

Cambodia's agricultural economy

cannot rely on the poor ground water and the Mekong, said Henning. The Mekong is

already dammed in China and Thailand, and its flow rate may be cut by more than

25 percent by the year 2000, he said.

Grainne Ryder, a water resources

engineer and co-founder of the Thai NGO Terra, said, "That would be disastrous.

Cambodia has to get involved with Mekong politics,

now."

Environmentalists agree that Cambodia will soon be the same as

northeastern Thailand which has been stripped of trees and is now drought and

poverty stricken.

Ryder said: "The people are forced to migrate to the

cities for survival because the rural agricultural communities have been

destroyed.

"Thailand's just further ahead in the logging process than

Cambodia is."

During the last 20 years, over three million hectares of

Cambodia's forests have disappeared.

According to the Minister of

Environment Dr Mok Mareth, forests in four provinces, Takeo, Kandal, Svay Rieng,

and Prey Veng, have been completely wiped out, and 40 percent of Kompong Speu

has been deforested as well.

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