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‘Deforestation plagues ASEAN’

An excavator in the distance clears trees on an economic land concession in Kratie province’s Snuol district last year
An excavator in the distance clears trees on an economic land concession in Kratie province’s Snuol district last year. Heng Chivoan

‘Deforestation plagues ASEAN’

Concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere have never been higher, but Association of Southeast Asian Nations member countries are still failing to curb emissions created by heavy deforestation, according to a new report.

Forest land in ASEAN countries declined by more than 6 per cent between 2010 and 2013, with land-use changes contributing to more than 75 per cent of the region’s total greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Regional Community Forestry Training Center (RECOFTC).

Launched on Saturday at the opening of the Conference of the ASEAN Social Forestry Network in Malaysia, RECOFTC’s report faults ASEAN members for not allocating community forestry land as a means of preventing deforestation and mitigating climate change.

“When local people acquire secure tenure and forest management rights and receive adequate benefits from forest resources, this indeed leads to improved forest management, conservation of biodiversity and stronger local livelihoods,” the report says.

Healthy forests can improve climate resilience by regulating watersheds and, among other things, acting as a shelter, while also mitigating climate change through capturing and containing carbon, the report continues.

But in Cambodia, where average annual temperatures have already increased by almost a full degree since 1960 and scientists have observed a two-month delay in the start of the rainy season, forest loss is the second worst in ASEAN, with nearly 92,000 hectares of forest disappearing every year.

“We all understand the consequences of deforestation and forest degradation, but individuals continue with short-term profit because there is no good preservation alternative that can compete,” Tin Ponlock, the Ministry of the Environment’s deputy climate change director, said.

A University of Maryland study in November estimated that Cambodia’s forests have shrunk 7 per cent in the past 12 years. Forestry Administration spokesman Thoun Sarath yesterday blamed expanding agricultural needs for the declines.

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