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Ranger claims villagers given OK to clear trees

Ranger claims villagers given OK to clear trees

Rangers patrolling the Samlot Protected Area in the provinces of Battambang and Pailin say a 34-hectare section of the jungle is being cleared by villagers with impunity from local authorities.

The site began being cleared after the Environmental Department of Pailin declared a new dumpsite would be built there in 2010, according to a ranger working with the Maddox Jolie-Pitt Foundation who asked not to be named.

The ranger said that although no waste had been deposited yet, enterprising farmers who began planting corn and cassava there were threatening the forest.

He said one man that rangers arrested for clearing forest on Sunday was released a day later when the Pailin Environmental Department intervened.

“The suspect admitted that the Environmental Department allowed him to clear and cultivate the land,” the ranger said.

Kim Sokha, director of the Pailin Provincial Environment Department, denied that the dumpsite was in a protected area, although he said the farmers had been allowed to farm the land for now.

“When we need it, they will hand it back to us,” he said, adding that the dump would start being set up next year.

Environment Ministry spokesperson Sao Sopheap said using protected land as a dump was possible with ministerial permission, but added it wasn’t clear if the ministry had allowed this particular project to go through.

“I will check,” he said.

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