The US Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Ministry of Environment on Wednesday announced the implementation of a five-year, $21-million Prey Lang Forest Green Project in a bid to strengthen the management of the forest.
Meanwhile, the Prey Lang community representatives urged the government and donors to use the budget right on the target.
Spanning 431,683ha across four provinces including Kampong Thom, Stung Treng, Kratie and Preah Vihear, Prey Lang was designated a protected wildlife sanctuary in May 2016.
It is home to at least 27 endangered animal and 20 endangered plant species but has suffered badly from rampant illegal logging.
During a workshop entitled Management of Prey Lang Forest Landscape and Sustainable and Effective surroundings, more than 100 participants including the government’s development partners discussed effective implementation of the law, demarcation and designation of more wildlife sanctuaries, and management of protected areas as well as sustainable financing.
Enhancing forest preservation
The Ministry of Environment’s secretary of state Sao Sopheap said the project was initiated by USAID with a budget of some $21 million.
Supported by the ministry, the project aims to conserve biodiversity and the ecological system of the forest, which is one of Southeast Asia’s last remaining lowland evergreen woodlands.
The project implementation started on August 7 last year and runs through August 6, 2023. It also aims to create sustainable and equal economic opportunities for local communities.
“The project will help enhance and expand the capacities and effectiveness of our Prey Lang forest preservation."
“We are pleased to collaborate with our development partners, but even without this USAID project, the government, the [environment] ministry and provincial authorities – which are stakeholders – would still [use all means] to preserve it,” he said.
USAID’s Mission Director Veena Reddy said the agency has supported Cambodia’s natural resources management programmes since 2016, having in the process mitigated nearly 12 million tonnes of carbon emissions through the preservation of forest and biodiversity.
The figure, she said, amounted to emissions from 2.5 million cars travelling on the road each year.
USAID has also cooperated with 15,000 forest community members to create occupations for them and provide the means to jointly manage the forest.
“We have held several consultative forums along with the Prey Lang landscape community and the surrounding areas and other forest areas of Cambodia."
“The consultation expressed the wishes and needs of the local community to create sustainable occupations in order to strengthen their capacities to a key eco-system protection,” she said.
Srey Thei, a representative of the Prey Lang Community Network in Preah Vihear province, welcomed the project but called for more transparency in its implementation.
Some local authorities, he claimed, had previously misused the allocated funds while some colluded with traders to carry out illegal logging instead of enforcing the law.
“I’ve noticed that the Ministry of Environment has not enforced the law firmly enough in our areas. In Preah Vihear, authorities only seized small wood and if they ever arrested any illegal logger, they only impose small fines. That enable offenders to repeat their offences,” he said.