Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Report slams push for rubber

Report slams push for rubber

People walk through a cleared forest in Ratanakkiri destined for use as a rubber plantation. A recent report estimates the Kingdom could lose more than 2,500 square kilometers of protected areas to rubber plantations by 2020.
People walk through a cleared forest in Ratanakkiri destined for use as a rubber plantation. A recent report estimates the Kingdom could lose more than 2,500 square kilometers of protected areas to rubber plantations by 2020. PHOTO SUPPLIED

Report slams push for rubber

Protected areas and other biodiversity hotspots across Southeast Asia are increasingly under threat from expanding rubber plantations, with Cambodia at risk of losing more ecologically important land than any of its neighbours, a recent study reports.

If current trends continue, Cambodia stands to lose more than 2,500 square kilometres of protected areas to rubber plantations by 2020 – an area about the size of Luxembourg – according to a new study to be published in the September issue of the journal Global Environmental Change.

That number was significantly higher than for the other four countries surveyed – Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam and Thailand – with Vietnam clocking in at 1,900 square kilometres of protected areas potentially lost.

Cambodia is also predicted to cede more ground than that quartet in every other category of environmentally significant land save one: conservation corridors, where Vietnam fares slightly worse.

And the destruction may not even be lucrative, the report contends.

The higher and colder areas that plantations are expanding into are less suitable for rubber cultivation than the traditional humid lowlands, leading to lower yields.

“There is clear potential for loss-loss scenarios when forest is being cleared for rubber plantations that are not economically sustainable, and that have negative impacts on soils and water balance,” the study’s lead researcher, Antje Aarhends, said in a statement.

Although rubber has been cultivated in Cambodia since it was introduced by French colonists in the early 20th century, some parts of the Kingdom remain unsuitable for the cash crop’s cultivation.

Rising rubber prices over the past decade have led to an expansion of areas under cultivation, some of which have not been ideal for rubber growing, said Men Sopheak, deputy director general of Chop Rubber Plantation in Kampong Cham.

“Some of them have planted rubber in what we call non-traditional areas”, he said.

However, a more than 50 per cent drop in rubber prices since 2012 has led to some shifts, Sopheak added.

“Now we can see that some of them have chopped down those [rubber] trees and converted into other crops like peppers or cashew nuts.”

Nevertheless, the study predicts the issue will intensify as prices eventually head upward.

When that happens, Cambodia’s fragile ecosystem is set to suffer more than other countries in the region due to a lack of governance and well-connected Vietnamese rubber companies, said Jago Wadley, senior investigator at the London-based Environmental Investigation Agency.

“Most importantly, Cambodia’s governance structures can be bought, and laws can be ignored in what is often a rule of law vacuum when forests are concerned.”

Attempts to reach Forest Administration officials were unsuccessful yesterday.


  • Joy as Koh Ker Temple registered by UNESCO

    Cambodia's Koh Ker Temple archaeological site has been officially added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List, during the 45th session of the World Heritage Committee held in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on September 17. The ancient temple, also known as Lingapura or Chok Gargyar, is located in

  • Famed US collector family return artefacts to Cambodia

    In the latest repatriation of ancient artefacts from the US, a total of 33 pieces of Khmer cultural heritage will soon return home, according to the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts. In a September 12 press statement, it said the US Attorney’s Office for the

  • Tina rebuffs ‘false claims’ over falling paddy price

    Agriculture minister Dith Tina has shed light on the trade of paddy rice in Battambang – Cambodia’s leading rice-producing province – in a bid to curb what he dubs a “social media fact distortion campaign” to destabilise the market. While acknowledging that the prices of paddy

  • Kampot curfew imposed to curb ‘gang’ violence

    Kampot provincial police have announced measures to contain a recent spike in antisocial behaviour by “unruly’ youth. Officials say the province has been plagued by recent violence among so-called “gang members”, who often fight with weapons such as knives and machetes. Several social observers have

  • Cambodia set to celebrate Koh Ker UNESCO listing

    To celebrate the inscription of the Koh Ker archaeological site on UNESCO’s World Heritage List, the Ministry of Cults and Religion has appealed to pagodas and places of worship to celebrate the achievement by ringing bells, shaking rattles and banging gongs on September 20. Venerable

  • PM outlines plans to discuss trade, policy during US visit

    Prime Minister Hun Manet is set to meet with senior US officials and business leaders during his upcoming visit to the US for the UN General Assembly (UNGA), scheduled for September 20. While addressing nearly 20,000 workers in Kampong Speu province, Manet said he aims to affirm