The Asian Development Bank has completed its logging concession review and will present its draft report at a workshop on Monday, officials said this week.
Orhan Baykul, the ADB team leader, said Wednesday that an additional six weeks of field work has been completed and each operating concession now has been visited at least once.
“On Monday, we’ll present the report [to officials, donors and NGOs] and talk about our approach and recommendations as they stand to date,” Baykul said. He declined to divulge details.
Then, on April 20-21, he said, another workshop will be held to debate report’s content, he said.
The ADB review, which follows up on 1998 World Bank-funded studies that concluded Cambodia’s commercially valuable timber would be depleted within five years, is deemed a critical step in forestry reform.
Some 20 industrial concessions cover more than 4 million hectares of land, or the bulk of the nation’s forest resources outside protected areas.
Environmental watchdogs, the NGO community and some donors have urged the ADB team to take a tough stand and recommend contracts be canceled of timber companies operating illegally or infringing on local and indigenous peoples.
“If the review fails in its potential to radically reform the concession system and fails to recommend the termination of the concession companies with record of illegal activities and poor concession management, the whole forestry reform process will be jeopardized,” the watchdog Global Witness said in a draft statement prepared for the major donors meeting in May.
The NGO community says in its draft statement for the donors meeting that concessionaires “remain untouched by the law and continue to pose a major threat to local communities and forest resources.”
In an interview in December, Baykul agreed the current concession-management system was in shambles, but indicated his team was likely to recommend ways to correct the system rather than cancel agreements.
Forestry Director Ty Sokhun confirmed the workshops scheduled to discuss the reports, but said he hadn’t yet been briefed on the draft report.
“The purpose [of the workshop] is to present the results of the concession review,” Ty Sokhun said.
“We want to have transparency.”
(Additional reporting by Van Roeun)