Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Mareth tells of illegal logging 'catastrophe'



Mareth tells of illegal logging 'catastrophe'

Mareth tells of illegal logging 'catastrophe'

T HE deforestation resulting from illegal logging is a 'catastrophe' according to the State Secretary for the Environment Dr Mok Mareth, and he admits his department "is powerless to act."

Dr Mareth says the government has issued licenses to eleven companies to legally cut a total of 300,000 cubic meters of wood per year.

But this is dwarfed by environmental technical advisers' estimates of 1,700,000 cubic meters of illegal cutting per year.

A Mekong Committee report estimated 60 percent of the country was covered in forest in 1992, but this has been reduced to 49 percent according to senior forestry official Mr Sadoff, from his recent analysis of satellite data.

Dr Mareth said: "The situation is really very delicate. My officers cannot get to the remote rural areas and can only speculate as to what is really going on.

"Provinces are controlled by governors who sometimes pursue their own interests to the detriment of the State's.

Dr Mareth said local authorities were irresponsible and incompetent and blamed deforestation on inadequate government presence and control in remote areas.

Dr Mareth's department, the Secretariat of the Environment, has some powers but is not a separate Ministry in the Royal government.

A source in the Secretariat said the Royal government setup the department in a trendy window-dressing-exercise to make the government appear environmentally sensitive.

A Cambodian environmental expert, who requested anonymity, said: "Currently, commercial companies do not record what they log. There is no way to tell how much illegal cutting they do.

"The companies are owned by Thai, Malay, Indonesian, French, Chinese, Japanese, Russian and Cambodian nationals.

"It is up to the governments in these countries to put pressure on logging companies to be environmentally responsible."

Dr Mareth said he would like to see logging concession licenses given to local companies working along the principles of sustainable development.

He added that he hoped his department could involve the local population more actively in safeguarding their natural treasures.

The environmental expert said: "Ideally, essential forestry rules need to be observed to limit the ecological damage being inflicted upon forest resources.

"Disrupting the ecological balance can lead to drying-up of rivers in the dry season, floods during the rainy season, an increase in pests, changes in climate, more soil erosion and clogging-up of irrigation systems, as well as the disappearance of wildlife and rare species."

"Illegal logging is not limited to politically sensitive areas. Ethnic minorities which live in the northeastern provinces pursue slash-and-burn policies which destroy around 50,000 hectares of forest per year.

"Traditional lifestyles are hard to change and money for education programs is scarce.

"Seven million hectares of forest remain in Cambodia. It is up to Cambodian and Foreign governments to act now or else in ten years at the present rate of destruction there will be no forest left."

A source at the Environment Secretariat denounced the government's move on June 17 to assign control over timber exporting to the Ministry of Defense.

He said: "This move is dangerous for democracy and the government's stability. Experience shows that a self-financing army rapidly escapes civil government control."

MOST VIEWED

  • Phnom Penh placed in two-week lockdown

    The government has decided to place Phnom Penh in lockdown for two weeks, effective April 14 midnight through April 28, as Cambodia continues to grapple with the ongoing community outbreak of Covid-19, which has seen no sign of subsiding. According to a directive signed by Prime Minister

  • Cambodia on the verge of national tragedy, WHO warns

    The World Health Organisation (WHO) in Cambodia warned that the country had reached another critical point amid a sudden, huge surge in community transmission cases and deaths. “We stand on the brink of a national tragedy because of Covid-19. Despite our best efforts, we are

  • Hun Sen: Stay where you are, or else

    Prime Minister Hun Sen warned that the two-week lockdown of Phnom Penh and adjacent Kandal provincial town Takmao could be extended if people are not cooperative by staying home. “Now let me make this clear: stay in your home, village, and district and remain where

  • Businesses in capital told to get travel permit amid lockdown through One Window Service

    The Phnom Penh Municipal Administration has issued guidelines on how to get travel permission for priority groups during the lockdown of Phnom Penh, directing private institutions to apply through the municipality's One Window Service and limit their staff to a mere two per cent. In

  • Vaccination open to foreigners in Cambodia

    The Ministry of Health on April 8 issued an announcement on Covid-19 vaccination for foreigners residing and working in Cambodia, directing the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training and local authorities to register them. Health minister Mam Bun Heng, who is also head of the inter-ministerial

  • Ministry names types of business permitted amid lockdown

    The Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training singled out 11 types of business that are permitted to operate during the lockdown of Phnom Penh and Takmao town, which run through April 28. Those include (1) food-processing enterprises and slaughterhouses; (2) providers of public services such as firefighting, utility and