The government will ban logging in the near-pristine Cardamom mountains if studies now being conducted conclude the area needs to be set aside as a protected area, Ministry of Agriculture officials said Sunday.
At a major donors meeting in Paris last week, Agriculture Secretary of State Chan Tong Yves told donors the government is committed to preserving the Cardamoms.
Though years of war kept people out of the southwestern Cambodia mountain range, the recent peace has allowed logging companies to move in. Wildlife poachers are also taking advantage of the new access.
The Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Environment and conservation groups are now studying the effects of logging and increased access on the Cardamom mountains.
If logging in the area is having a negative impact on wildlife, the government will renegotiate contracts with logging concessions that operate in the Cardamoms, Agriculture Minister Chhea Song said. “If the final studies show the area should be preserved as a wildlife sanctuary, the government will work it out,” he said.
GAT International is the major logging concession operating in the central Cardamoms, which lies between two protected areas.
The London-based environmental watchdog Global Witness, hired by donor countries to monitor the industry, praised the government pledge in a statement Saturday.
“The value of preserving the Cardamoms dwarfs, in every sense, the returns of commercial logging,” said Jon Buckrell of Global Witness, according to media reports.