Cambodia Third in Deforestation, Says UN Body

The UN Food and Agriculture Or­­ganization estimates in a new re­port that Cambodia lost 29 percent of its primary forests between 2000 and 2005.

This gives Cambodia the third highest natural forest deforestation rate in the world, after Nigeria and Vi­­et­nam, according to the Global For­­est Resources Assessment 2005, re­leas­ed last week on the FAO Web site.

The report also estimates that old-growth forest in Cambodia now ac­counts for 322,000 hectares, diminishing from 456,000 hectares five years ago and a whopping 766,000 hectares in 1990.

The total loss in primary forests is 58 percent over the last 15 years.

When modified forests and plantations are included, Cambodia has 10.4 million hectares of forest covering 59.2 percent of its land, according to the FAO, a drop of 10 percent from 11.5 million hectares in 2000.

According to the report, Nigeria lost 56 percent of its old-growth forest in the last five years, while Viet­nam lost 55 percent.

Doing slightly better than Cam­bo­dia were Sri Lanka with a 15 percent loss, Malawi with a 15 percent loss and Indonesia with 13 percent loss. Neighboring Laos and Thai­land reported no loss of old growth forest to the FAO.

FAO Representative in Cambo­dia Kimoto Tsukasa said on Mon­day that he had not yet seen the report.

“If the head office says that, it must have a scientific basis,” he said. “My personal opinion is that the number seems too high.”

Forestry Administration Director Ty Sokhun said the FAO report sounded “illogical” to him.

“I think it was a biased report but I have not yet seen it, I only heard about it,” he said.

“Now there is no logging business,” he said, referring to the logging moratorium that began in De­cem­ber 2001.

But Robert Tennent, who heads the government-approved forestry monitor Societe General de Sur­veil­lance, said that a 29 percent de­crease in primary forest sounds ac­curate compared to SGS data to be released Dec 5.

“We have just completed a series of satellite imaging…compared to an earlier report from 2002, this seems accurate. I cannot confirm the exact figures, but this is the trend,” he said.

“It is largely due to encroachment,” he added.

Tennent said to reverse the trend there needs to be an improvement in the system of land titling in rural villages.

“The provincial courts do not have a clear idea of what the natural boundaries of the land are, so they do not do a good job of ending en­croachment,” he added.


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