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Sparks fly over forest decree

Sparks fly over forest decree

CAMBODIA'S first foray into controlling forestry concessions by law is under fire

even before it has been enacted.

The Sub-Decree on Forest Concession Planning, Management and Control Systems has

been forwarded to the Council of Ministers for approval.

But NGOs involved in the area are criticizing the proposed decree as hasty and inadequate.

Specifically, they point to the lack of provisions for independent monitoring, the

lack of provincial authorities having a say in what happens to forests in their areas,

no specific requirement for public consultation, no mention of traditional land users

and the lack of a review procedure before the reissuing of a concession.

A statement by the NGO Forum also suggests provisions to "ensure that the rights

of indigenous communities within their customary domain are respected through Joint

Forest Management, where indigenous people are equal in authority to Cambodian Government

authorities as managers of their lands".

There is also criticism that the role of the Ministry of Environment is too limited.

Because it is one step removed from direct financial and political gain in forestry

operations, the NGO Forum said that the Ministry should have a stronger role in monitoring,

community consultation and preparation of Environmental Impact Assessments and Social

Impact Assessments.

The Forum was particularly concerned about section 6.5 of the sub-decree which it

says removes local people's control over their traditional livelihood, contravening

international conventions on human rights.

They say the section needs to be redrafted to ensure people's right of access to

the areas under concession for the purpose of activities such as gathering firewood

or non-timber products.

The Forum wants the section redrafted to read:

"People should have automatic access to forest products for traditional livelihood

activities consistent with sustainable land use and Community Forest Management Committee

rules and regulations.

"The Department of Forestry and Wildlife may grant concessions (as per this

sub-decree, including the need for EIA/SIA) for commercial, non-traditional collection

of wood for fuel or charcoal or other forest products other than timber on the forest

concession area..."

The Forum was also concerned about the lack of independent monitoring of concession

areas. It points to management plans already in existence in Cambodia "that

are being breached under Forestry Department supervision".

Finally, the Forum was concerned to see clarification of what constituted illegal

logging.

It said that if a concessionaire logs an area outside that for which it has been

granted a concession then it can simply blame it on illegal loggers. The forum wants

responsibility for illegal logging in concession areas clarified.

The Forum would like to see that concessionaires "be only allowed to process

timber from their legal concession".

"We regard these changes as essential inclusions to the sub-decree."

The NGO Forum said they had received a letter from the Department of Forestry and

Wildlife agreeing to adjust the sub-decree, where possible, to take into account

their concerns.

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