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Land grabs degrade forest

More than 1,000 hectares of an Oddar Meanchey community forest designated for a carbon credit project has been degraded by incremental land grabs by farmers, forest representatives said yesterday.

Malis Hoeurt, president of the Romdul Veasna forest community in Samroang district’s Bansay Reak commune, said residents from neighbouring provinces had been encroaching on the forest over the past three years, but local authorities seemed unwilling or unable to prevent the degradation.

“There are 1,050 hectares of land in this community forest that have been lost... since 2009,” Hoeurt said, noting the total area of the community forest was about 6,000 hectares.

“The forest community is for us, but authorities are not concerned. They don’t take care of the forests,” Hoeurt added.

In May 2009, environmental and development NGO Pact Cambodia joined in a carbon credit project with provincial authorities as part of a climate change adaptation scheme.

A total budget of about US$80 million was slated for the project over a 30-year carbon capture lifespan, with a portion of these funds earmarked for forest patrols and rangers from the local community, said Hoeurt.

But despite repeated petitions to authorities and government institutions, the forest rangers have had no success securing assistance in stemming the encroachment, an issue worsened by a lack of funds, he added.

Bansayrak commune chief Hem Seda, however, denied the encroachment, saying “villagers have come to live in those areas since long time ago”.

Pact Cambodia coordinator Net Channa said authorities are seeking land for the 250 families living in the disputed forest.

To contact the reporter on this story: Phak Seangly at seangly.phak@phnompenhpost.com

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