E NVIRONMENTALISTS predict unchecked logging will turn the Kingdom into another
Ethiopia. They say unless tree felling is stopped, even reforestation will be
unable to prevent the country being turned into a desert.
The damming of
the upper reaches of the Mekong River added to the loss of watersheds to logging
and a naturally poor water supply are all contributing to the desertification of
the country, said Daniel Henning, UNDP's environmental training
Henning said, "Most of Cambodia's forests, unfortunately,
will be cut. Because of the environmental circumstances here, much of the future
is dependant on watersheds. This country will become the next
He explained the process: "When the natural forests are
cleared, there are no longer any plants or roots to preserve the topsoil. The
rains cause massive erosion and often flash floods, because the forests aren't
there to soak up the flow of water.
"The vital soil is lost, the ground
dries up, the forests can't regenerate. Crops can only be sustained for a year
on the depleted soil.
"The same thing happened in Ethiopia, which also
used to be a heavily forested country. The people had to keep moving and
cutting, plant as long as they could, move and cut. Look at it now."
asked about government-discussed policies of reforestation, Henning replied,
"Reforestation is an expensive myth. It rarely happens. Besides, you simply
cannot restore natural watersheds."
Cambodia's agricultural economy
cannot rely on the poor ground water and the Mekong, said Henning. The Mekong is
already dammed in China and Thailand, and its flow rate may be cut by more than
25 percent by the year 2000, he said.
Grainne Ryder, a water resources
engineer and co-founder of the Thai NGO Terra, said, "That would be disastrous.
Cambodia has to get involved with Mekong politics,
Environmentalists agree that Cambodia will soon be the same as
northeastern Thailand which has been stripped of trees and is now drought and
Ryder said: "The people are forced to migrate to the
cities for survival because the rural agricultural communities have been
"Thailand's just further ahead in the logging process than
During the last 20 years, over three million hectares of
Cambodia's forests have disappeared.
According to the Minister of
Environment Dr Mok Mareth, forests in four provinces, Takeo, Kandal, Svay Rieng,
and Prey Veng, have been completely wiped out, and 40 percent of Kompong Speu
has been deforested as well.