Minister of Environment Eang Sophalleth has expressed his hopes that by June or July this year, around one million saplings will be sufficiently grown, and will be ready for distribution to the public for planting.

Acting on the recommendations of Prime Minister Hun Manet, the ministry has set out the “Circular Strategy on Environment 2023-2028”, which focuses on three areas: Cleanliness, greenness and sustainability.

Sophalleth explained that in order to go “green”, everyone must contribute to planting more trees in Cambodia and achieving a 60 per cent increase in forest cover by 2050. To support this goal, the minister has launched a campaign to plant at least 1 million trees a year.

“The saplings we are growing are diverse, so we will distribute trees in accordance with soil and weather conditions. For example, in Kampong Speu province, there is a community that trades bamboo trees, they climb mountains and fell bamboo to sell to processing companies for export,” he said, in a January 17 video clip.

“It is clear that conditions there are perfect for planting bamboo, so the ministry will give them 100,000 bamboo seedlings to plant. It is a very useful plant, as it not only produces a very useful form of timber but also absorbs a lot of carbon,” he added.

He explained that to date, the ministry has distributed 140,000 saplings to the public, and each provincial environment department has established nurseries to grow more.

“By June or July this year, at least one million of the seedlings in the nurseries will have grown big enough to be distributed to the public for planting, for free. Once they grow, they will generate carbon credits, which we will sell, in order to contribute to national development and boost local economies,” said Sophalleth.

Heng Kimhong, programme and advocacy manager at the Cambodian Youth Network (CYN), supported the distribution of seedlings for planting, although he suggested it may be more realistic to plant ornamental trees, or rare and endangered species so the public could get to see them.

“I understand that planting new seedlings will contribute to reforestation, but I think it is more important to protect the existing forests, perhaps through a ban on felling established growth forests for furniture or timber. The ministry should establish more effective mechanisms to protect our natural resources and forests, to ensure their sustainability,” he said.

He opined that educating the people and public campaigns such as the tree planting one would not be as effective as enforcing legal measures which protect natural resources. He claimed that forest crimes continue to occur, which is concerning.

The government announced the implementation of Article 6 of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, which stipulates carbon exploration. The carbon credit trade holds a great deal of potential for Cambodia in terms of sustainable development.