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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Logging Concessions Under ADB Scrutiny

Logging Concessions Under ADB Scrutiny

Logging Concessions Under ADB Scrutiny

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Logging activities like these are to come under international scrutiny via the ADB.

T

HE FUTURE of the Kingdom's legal logging operations in the year 2000 hinge on the

results of an ongoing ADB-funded forest concession review.

A two-month review of logging concessionaires compliance with their contractual obligations

began in mid-October and is expected to be completed by mid-December.

The evaluation of concessionaires conduct will be a decisive factor in whether the

companies are provided cutting permits for the year 2000.

Logging is a major issue with donors and further aid has been linked to improvements

in the Government's handling of the resource

At the beginning of the year Prime Minister Hun Sen initiated a crackdown on illegal

logging particularly by the military.

But while the actions against illegal loggers have drawn some praise from donors

concern remains over the practises of legal concessionaires.

Undertaken by forestry specialists from a consortium of companies led by Fraser Thomas,

the official logging concession review is just one component of a $900,000 ADB Sustainable

Forest Management Project which includes the drafting of a forestry law and the preparation

of "community forest" guidelines.

"The concession review consists partly of field inspections and a very careful

look a forestry law and [government] contractual agreements with the concessions

themselves," explained Fraser Thomas Planning Specialist Stephen Eagle. "If

there's a clear breach of contract by a concessionaire, [a government-imposed cutting

ban] could result."

Forest Management Consultant Garry Townley, a professional forester from New Zealand,

has been subcontracted by Fraser Thomas to inspect all of Cambodia's forest concession

areas.

Although unable to comment directly on his findings until after the review has been

completed, Townley had high praise for the government officials and representatives

of the concessions who have accompanied him on his inspections.

"In every single case, the cooperation from the Forestry Department and concessions

has been excellent," he said of his visits to seven concession areas in Kratie

and Kompong Thom. "As far as I can see, nothing has been withheld from us."

However, Townley cautioned that the extended rainy season had in some cases made

a comprehensive appraisal of concessionaires adherence to their contractual obligations

difficult to appraise.

"The extension of the wet season has made access [to concession areas] difficult,"

Townley told the Post. "And because of the wet season, none of the concessions

have been harvesting, making it difficult to assess their level of compliance.

While expressing full support for the goals of the forest concession review, Patrick

Alley, Director of the environmental watchdog Global Witness, has reservations about

what he describes as the "limitations" of the review.

"The scope of the review is not enough in terms of the time spent in each concession,"

Alley explained. "The fact that the recent history of the concessionaires [in

terms of illegal activity] is not being taken into account by the review is also

a source of concern."

While conceding that time constraints allowed him only one or two days in each concession

area, Townley insisted that was more than enough time for an adequate evaluation.

"It only takes me two hours, based on my experience, to determine whether there's

been good or bad management [of a concession area]." Townley said.

Eagle also had concerns about Alley's insistence that past accounts of concessionaires'

alleged malfeasance be included in the review process.

"We'd like to see justice done as much as Global Witness," Eagle said.

"But history [of concessionaires past conduct] can't come into what we're doing

because of questions over what would constitute evidence...to satisfy Global Witness

would require a whole squad of detectives with an operations room and full legal

jurisdiction."

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