The director of the Forestry Administration at the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Keo Omalis, has urged the planting of trees in areas that have been cleared, and at returned economic land concessions and vacant state land.
The goal, he said, is to replant more than 25,000ha a year.
Speaking at a conference attended by Agriculture Minister Veng Sakhon that reviewed last year and outlined objectives for 2019, Omalis called on relevant officials to work in conjunction with development partners, the private sector and local people to meet the target.
“[The aim is] to have a comprehensive review of amendments to the Forest Law and the updating of the national forestry programme. This is in response to the reform situation in the context of regionalisation to ensure the robust development of a sustainable national forestry development programme,” he said.
Omalis encouraged continued crackdowns on forestry crimes, including illegal logging, the taking of forest land for personal use and the hunting of wildlife.
He said forest communities should be expanded to help maintain resources and create new jobs.
He urged the promotion of agroforestry systems that did not rely on the timber trade.
“We must improve education and training so communities better understand the forest and protect it, and develop sustainable forestry resource [programmes],” he said.
Begin this year
Ministry of Environment spokesman Neth Pheaktra on Monday said it fully supported the project. The ministry has also been implementing projects to rehabilitate and regulate Cambodia’s natural resources, he said.
“Currently, the Ministry of Environment is safeguarding the protected areas and the biodiversity conservation corridor in an area of around 7.5 million hectares, equivalent to 41 per cent of the area of Cambodia,” he said.
Forestry Administration deputy director Chan Ponika told The Post on Monday that the programme would begin this year.
At first, trees will be replanted on state land taken from economic land concessions. And in the next phase, trees would be planted in cleared forest areas, he said.
Ponika said the government had a prepared budget for the replanting programme.
The trees to be replanted included species considered luxury wood, such as beng, neang nuon, kra noung, sokrom, koki, and other well-known varieties.
“The budget has been prepared for five years. In addition, we want to encourage private companies to participate in the programme in order to meet or even exceed the government’s plan,” Ponika said.
Pen Bunna, land and natural resources official at rights group Adhoc, told The Post on Monday that he supported the replanting of trees in areas affected by logging but was doubtful the programme would succeed.
“I do not expect the plan to grow trees in more than 20,000ha of land to be successful because it needs a lot of money to replant trees. It’s not like you can plant one tree and then go home,” he said.
He said it was imperative forests were maintained to ensure that replanted trees survived.
Currently, when authorities cracked down on forestry crimes, they merely confiscated the logged timber but didn’t arrest those who felled it, he said.
Srey Thei, a Prey Lang Community Network coordinator (PLCN) member in Preah Vihear province, told The Post he applauded the move and hoped the authorities committed to it.
However, he said the government needed to come up with more effective measures to prevent forestry crimes.
“Planting trees is a good thing. However, the remaining trees must be effectively protected because I see forestry crimes occurring every day, even as I try my best to stop it."
“Illegal logging happens non-stop – when the west of the forest is patrolled, the crimes happen in the east. Now the offenders have guns, we can hardly stop them, “ he said.