The World Wildlife Fund, in cooperation with Mondulkiri government officials, announced a new land-management initiative yesterday aimed at balancing environmental protection with economic development.
The initiative will theoretically bring together government officials, the private sector, local communities and NGOs to work together to plan the future development of land in the province, though one conservationist questioned whether some participants were really committed to making it succeed.
“The Protected Areas of Mondulkiri are threatened by the uncoordinated development of economic activities . . . the Spatial Planning is an opportunity to assess the impact of such development and plan it in a way that would conserve key protected areas,” WWF-Cambodia country director Chhith Sam Ath is quoted as saying in the announcement.
“In the past, no coordinated land-use [policy] . . . led to many ELC, mining concessions and other concessions to be granted, very often inside protected areas,” Sam Ath added via email.
While NGOs will be part of the assessment team, he said, ultimately the Mondulkiri government will have “full ownership” of a process that must also align with national initiatives.
Conservationist Marcus Hardtke acknowledged the merit of land-planning efforts, but warned that in Cambodia, they often turn out to be a “waste of time and resources”. Corrupt officials and opportunistic private entities systematically ignoring basic laws and regulations should be the “top priority”, he added.
Provincial Governor Svay Sam Eang, meanwhile, declined to comment, saying he didn’t know much about the meeting as his deputy attended in his stead.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY MECH DARA