See More on Facebook

Opinion

Why care about Cambodia’s forests?

An editorial in the Phnom Penh Post argues for the protection of Cambodia’s forests.


Written by

Updated: March 22, 2018

Similar to many countries in the world, Cambodia’s forests are under mounting pressure. Trees are being cut down and replaced with cash crops like cashew nuts and cassava. Many trees disappear due to the need for large-scale economic development.

Compared to large-scale economic development, which promises massive economic gains and generates thousands of jobs, the value of forests can seem negligible. Add to that the sale of high-value timber, a lucrative billion-dollar business, and the short-term economic incentives to cut down trees and make space for other development seems obvious.

But imagine what would happen if all Cambodia’s forests were gone.

The answer is not only clear, but also alarming. Millions of the poorest people would suffer, and much of the progress these communities have made against poverty would be lost.

This is because about 80 percent of the country’s population reside in rural areas, and their daily lives and well-being are tied to the forest. Forests also play a crucial role in saturating and regulating flows of water and mitigating the damaging impacts of climate change.

Experiences of African countries demonstrate that the removal of forest cover increases incidents of flash floods and worsens the effects of droughts. Indeed, in 2016, Cambodia experienced one of the worst droughts in its history. Wells ran dry. Nearly 2.5 million people were affected due to lack of drinking water, and water for their farms.

Rural communities collect firewood for cooking, use a limited amount of timber for basic house construction, and collect mushrooms, honey and medicinal plants for their own use and to sell in markets.

A majority of these rural populations practise rain-fed agriculture. If there is not enough rain, the forests act as a safety net. They earn income by making items from forest products.

Economic gains from selling timber will be more than negated by increasing damages due to climate change. Moreover, the ongoing construction of hydropower dams requires the felling of huge tracts of forests to make space in upstream watersheds.

A study made by the HDR and DHI (2015) on the influence of dams on river fisheries in the Mekong region predicts that they will significantly affect river ecosystems by reducing sediment flows downstream and consequently reduce fish populations by up to 50 percent.

Given that fish contribute with more than 60 percent of rural protein intake (World Fish, 2016), the generation of electricity is likely to come at high cost to food security.

This highlights that even over relatively short periods of time, the social, ecological and economic costs of deforestation are going to be severe. At the sharp end, rural people whose livelihoods are tied to forests will be the first to suffer, but the cost will eventually be borne by generations of Cambodians, whether they live in the city or the countryside.

So, what can be done to save Cambodia’s forests?

To tackle the ongoing challenges, the Ministry of Environment has begun implementing an environmental governance reform that categorised more than 7 million hectares (roughly 40 percent of the country) as protected landscape and brought additional rangers to protect forests.

This is certainly a crucial step towards sustaining forests for the future, as is also demonstrated by the recent decline in deforestation rates in Cambodia for the period between 2014 and 2016.

Yet, more needs to be done, something that is also acknowledged both by the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fishery.

The 7-million-plus hectares of protected landscapes are now managed by just 1,260 rangers. The math on that is staggering, no single person can effectively monitor more than 5,000 hectares of land. What is needed is the activation of forest communities themselves, to protect their forests. Their engagement is crucial to the long-term goal of making Cambodian forests sustainable.

International experience, for example, from Nepal shows that participation of forest communities in maintaining forests is the most effective way of preventing illegal activities. It also shows that when forest communities take an active interest in protecting forests, they also make use of the forest themselves, for instance, by sustainable harvesting and selling of forest products.

At present, less than 10 percent of Cambodia’s forests and protected areas are under community management. Further, while economic concessions are typically given 50 years of management rights, community leases are given for 15 years (eg, Community Forestry and Community Protected Areas).

Among other things, the new Environmental Code drafted by the Ministry of Environment aims to introduce new measures of collaborative management, to leverage the power of communities and provide them with opportunities for engaging in long-term sustainable management of forests and protected areas.

The new national Production Forest Strategic Plan (2018-2032) led by the Forestry Administration will also create new opportunities for communities to engage in sustainable production of forest products.

These measures must be coupled with effective law enforcement. More importantly, they must also be implemented in a manner that fully and adequately supports communities in sustainable forest management.

(This article originally appeared in the Phnom Penh Post)



Enjoyed this story? Share it.


ANN Members
About the Author: Asia News Network is a regional media alliance comprising 24 media entities.

Eastern Briefings

All you need to know about Asia


Our Eastern Briefings Newsletter presents curated stories from 22 Asian newspapers from South, Southeast and Northeast Asia.

Sign up and stay updated with the latest news.



By providing us with your email address, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

View Today's Newsletter Here

Opinion

China slams outside meddling, provocation in South China Sea

China called upon states bordering the South China Sea to jointly work with Beijing to guard against external interference and disruption. Some countries outside the region constantly stir up trouble and brandish forces in the South China Sea, which goes against efforts made by China, the Philippines and other regional states to maintain peace and promote mutually beneficial cooperation, said Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said at a news conference with Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr in the southern Philippine city of Davao. Regional countries should remain vigilant against such interference, and continue deepening solidarity and cooperation to build the South China Sea into a sea of peace, friendship and cooperation, and not leave any opportunity for outside forces to exploit the situation, he said. Wang said China will discuss with the Philippines joint exploration of oil and


By China Daily
October 30, 2018

Opinion

A word against regulation

Regulation of social media, like regulation of the press, should not be attempted less it offer another way for despots to control their population. When the printing press first began spreading throughout Europe in the 15thand 16thcenturies, it brought with it a revolution in and democratization of ideas. Scripture and scientific text were spread rapidly and was readily accessible to the masses for the first time. The church’s role as the gatekeepers and purveyors of information lessened with the advent of new technology. Upheaval was not far behind and the printing press played a central role in the reformation led by Martin Luther and the split of the Catholic Church. At this time, the leadership of the church tried to suppress the dissemination of these ideas and the technology which allowed them to flourish. But their attempts were in vain and the world entered a new epoch, one which eventually g


By Cod Satrusayang
October 29, 2018

Opinion

Asia News Network calls for the immediate release of the three Eleven Media editors 

Asia News Network statement on the arrest of Eleven Media senior staff. We, the members of the Asia News Network, express solidarity with our arrested colleagues from Eleven Media Group, Managing Editor Nari Min, Editor in Chief Kyaw Zaw Linn, and Chief Reporter Phyo Wai Win and condemn their arrest under provisions of the law that allow no bail. All three were arrested on October 10 in Yangon for their investigation and coverage of the controversial business ventures of the Yangon Regional Government. They were charged under Article 505 (b) of Myanmar’s Penal Code, which does not allow the grant of bail and carries a maximum punishment of two years imprisonment. Asia News Network, an alliance of 24 leading media in 20 Asian countries, stands by the three journalists – not because the Yangon Regional


By ANN Members
October 12, 2018

Opinion

The Marcos family’s last gasp

With President Duterte in power, the Marcos family is ascendant in Philippine national politics again. The remains of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos have been buried at the national heroes’ cemetery; his only son and namesake has a live election protest against the incumbent vice president; his eldest daughter Imee, the governor of his home province of Ilocos Norte, is polling well among likely candidates for the Senate; and his wife Imelda, at 89, is on her third term as representative of the Marcos’ old congressional bailiwick. But despite the obvious support of a still-popular president and a slick, long-running, well-funded social media operation promoting the Marcos worldview, the Duterte era may turn out to be the Marcos family’s last gasp. These years may be their last opportunity to win back the presidency and everything that goes with it. It will certainly not be for lack of trying, o


By ANN Members
October 8, 2018

Opinion

Pakistan has a Saudi Arabia question it needs to answer

Pakistan needs Saudi money but not its geopolitics. The long-standing strategic alliance between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia has taken on a new dimension with prospects of the kingdom participating in CPEC projects. The Saudis have reportedly also shown an interest in investing in the oil, energy and mineral sectors. The new Pakistani government is looking to Riyadh to bail it out of its financial woes. It is evident that the chill in relations between the two allies in recent years has diminished. It was significant that Prime Minister Imran Khan chose Riyadh for his first foreign visit within four weeks of coming to power, thus breaking his pledge of not travelling abroad in his first three months in office. The warm welcome given to the new Pakistani prime minister signalled a fresh beginning and t


By Dawn
October 4, 2018

Opinion

Dialogue is only way to resolve Kashmir issue

The only way to end an ongoing, bloody conflict in Kashmir is for both sides to come to the table. India and Pakistan will not talk. Pakistan wants to talk “Kashmir”. India wants to talk “terror”. Yet they will not talk. The baggage of history weighs heavy on us. The status quo stays. Kashmir bleeds and we the people of Kashmir will continue to pay a heavy price. Not that the people of India and Pakistan will not pay. Of course they too will. We are all paying a high price for this utterly mindless status quo which is seen as politically safe by the ruling elite (whether in power or out of power) in India and in Pakistan. Any shift is compromise which amounts to treason. For the past seven decades the people of Kashmir remain trapped in this rhetoric of the status quo, living a life of bondage in the world


By Dawn
October 1, 2018