With reference to Mr. Grainger's article on the UNDP-funded project "Natural
Resources Based Development Strategy for the Tonle Sap Region," we would like
to confirm that this project, requested as a high priority by the Royal Government
of Cambodia, is the product of more than one year and a half of in-depth consultation
and review with relevant ministries of the Royal Government (including Agriculture
and Environment) as well as such important partners as UNESCO, FAO, World Bank, several
NGOs, the Mekong River Commission and the Cambodian National Mekong Committee (CNMC).
Intensive discussions over a long period with all of these partners have resulted
in the identification of both operational and funcitional areas for collaboration
and coordination, as well as in uniform commitments of mutual cooperation.
Projects of these agencies which have started within this timeframe have done so
in full knowledge of the plans for the UNDP-funded project; in turn, the UNDP-funded
project work plan has been revised since its signing to take into account on-going
and pending data collection activities being conducted by other organisations (such
as FAO and World Bank) which will constitute valuable inputs into the eventual long-term
Clearly these efforts will not be duplicated; in fact, the inter-ministerial nature
of the national team for this project (with representatives from Ministries of Agriculture
and Environment and others) will ensure that all on-going activities relevant to
the Tonle Sap Lake area are optimized
Contrary to Mr. Grainger's assertion (which is not supported by the project document
or the consultants' Terms of Reference), the international experts will not be responsible
for formulating development strategies, either in two months or in 24.
The international experts will be responsible for training and capacity building
of the national team, and for providing punctual expert assistance and review of
the work that will be conducted by the national team.
The duration of the project is two years; during that time, it is the national team
which will conduct the core work and develop appropriate management strategies in
a fully participatory and consultative process at the national level. This approach
is fully described in the Project Document.
It should be noted that the selection of the counterpart institution, the CNMC, was
endorsed by the Royal Government in recognition of the fact that it is, by mandate,
a committee made up of relevant Government departments.
The CNMC has the critical added advantage of ensuring that the potential impacts
on the Tonle Sap Lake Area are fully inegrated and accounted for in any development
which may occur along the Mekong River, either in Cambodia or at the sub-regional
As stated in Mr. Grainger's article, "the dyamics of the Mekong river depend
on the Great Lake as a reservoir and catchment." The ecosystems of the entire
Mekong river system are inherently interrelated and connected.
In consequence, by sub-decree number 12 of the CNMC, seven ministries of the Royal
Government of Cambodia agreed upon the CNMC as the most appropriate agency to ensure
that all the aspects are indeed considered to ensure sustainability.
UNDP feels that to separate the development planning and management of the Tonle
Sap Lake from the broader management practices of the Mekong river resources would
doom the Tonle Sap Lake to being the recipient of water resource development strategies
rather than one of the determinants of those stategies.
We feel this could have potentially disastrous long-term impact on the environmental
and socio-economic sustainability of the Tonle Sap Lake resources.
Finally, Mr. Grainger's article suggests that he researched the subjectly matter
widely; it is, therefore, with surprise that we note that UNDP, the major object
of the article, appears to have been contacted last.
As always, UNDP is pleased to invite Mr. Grainger and any other "critic"
to participate in the open exchange that has prevailed to date on this important
development issue to ensure maximum collaboration and cooperation in all our efforts.
- Andre Klap, Acting Resident Representative, UNDP, Phnom Penh.