The Ministry of Agriculture’s Forestry Administration spokesman Keo Omaliss hit back on Thursday at a World Wildlife Fund (WWF) report that claims the Greater Mekong will lose 30 percent of its forests by 2030 without drastic action.
He said the claims do not accurately reflect efforts made by the region’s governments and people, and called the report “unacceptable”.
Pulse of the Forest claims the Greater Mekong region, which consists of Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam, has already lost a third of its natural forest cover.
The report also claims it will lose another third by 2030 unless immediate action is taken, including protecting and restoring natural forests and promoting community-led sustainable forest management and trade.
The region is one of 11 global deforestation fronts – areas that in the coming decades are projected to be responsible for up to 80 per cent of the world’s forest loss.
The five countries alone could account for 17 percent or 30 million hectares of global deforestation by 2030, it claimed.
Omaliss said although the report highlighted measures to stop the devastation, the WWF’s prediction of the region losing another third of its forests by 2030 does not fairly reflect such efforts.
“The Cambodian government has set aside over seven million hectares of forest for conservation and protection and has stopped giving forest land concessions to investors."
“It has stepped up forest replanting and cracked down on illegal deforestation. So the prediction of losing another third of the Greater Mekong’s forest by 2030 is unacceptable,” he said.
Environment Ministry spokesman Sao Sopheap could not be reached for comment.
WWF-Greater Mekong regional forest coordinator Thibault Ledecq said: “The Greater Mekong’s forests are turbocharged engines driving the economies and ecosystems of Asia but they are being lost at an alarming rate and we have to change our approach.
“The people and projects detailed in the report prove there is hope and it is possible to earn a good living while protecting the forests, wildlife, and the benefits of healthy ecosystems,” he claimed.
The report highlights efforts by people and communities in the region trying to stop the devastation, such as those in Cambodia’s Eastern Plains Landscape, where members of a Community Protected Area protect forests from wildlife poachers and illegal loggers while replanting hardwood trees and earning income from honey, resin and mushroom collection.
But it claims further action is needed as degradation from agricultural expansion, rubber plantations, legal and illegal logging and the construction of roads, dams and other infrastructure are taking a huge toll on the forests, as well as the people who rely on them.
The report highlighted the importance of the Greater Mekong’s forests in providing clean drinking water for tens of millions of people and protecting dozen of rivers, including the Mekong itself, which produces over 4.5 million tonnes of fish each year.
It gives a detailed overview of the status of the forests and outlines recommendations by WWF to ensure greater recognition from governments, business leaders and the public of the value of forests.
The report urges government leaders and businesses to put responsible forestry at the heart of their timber supply chains.
“We shouldn’t wait around for others to act. The future of the Mekong’s forests is in all of our hands,” Ledecq said.