A government announcement that it will promote the replanting of trees in areas reclaimed from unused economic land concessions has drawn a broadly positive response.
But Buntenh, a monk and environmental activist, yesterday said that while the idea was good, it was not clear that the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF), the body responsible for the program, would perform.
“I think this could be for publicity, because we’ve heard it so many times before: two or three ministers of agriculture said they would do this and nothing happened,” he said.
However, Buntenh added, it was possible that increased pressure from the electorate was motivating change. And, he said, the agriculture minister appeared more dedicated than his predecessors.
Veng Sakhon, a former secretary of state at the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology, was appointed minister of agriculture in April in a ministerial reshuffle.
The program was reported yesterday by state media’s Agence Kampuchea Presse.
Curtis Hundley, the representative for Winrock International, a non-profit that works on deforestation issues, said the government had ample resources to succeed with its pledge.
“In the technical working groups they’ve told us they have 10 million seedlings, and I’ve seen the nurseries,” Hundley said.
But not everyone thinks the government should be responsible for reforestation.
“I don’t think the government should pay for it,” said Bunra Seng, the country head of Conservation International. “The people who took the land should replant the trees.”
Thun Sarath, a spokesman with the Forestry Administration, confirmed that the administration was working with MAFF on the project, but referred other questions to the ministry.
MAFF spokesman Lor Raksmey said the ministry had a plan for 2017 but refused to elaborate on the details.