Chinese Firm Clearing Land in Botum Sakor

botum sakor national park, Koh Kong Province – A Chinese firm is moving forward with plans to de­velop a plantation inside Bo­tum Sak­or National Park, having sub­mit­ted final paperwork to the Min­­istry of Environment last month.

Workers at the site have cut about 3,000 hectares of forest in the 18,000 hectare concession, while bulldozers, cranes and concrete mixers are now building infrastructure for an acacia and eucalyptus plantation.

Fulfilling a last bureaucratic obligation, the company submitted its Environmental Impact As­ses­sment last month, said Chay Samith, director of the Environ­ment Ministry’s department of natural preservation.

He refused to immediately share the assessment with re­porters, as did Green Rich. It is un­der the ministry’s review.

Since it was uncovered in March, the project has provoked an outcry from environmentalists and advocates of Cambodia’s parks and wildlife zones, who point to law that expressly forbids in­­dustrial development inside pro­tected areas.

That pressure led the ministry to suspend Green Rich’s operations in May pending the environmental assessment. A Green Rich contractor said Wednesday he was awaiting ministry approval before beginning to plant acacia seedlings.

Illegalities have persisted throughout the suspension, however, according to the NGO WildAid, which funds the Botum Sakor park in a partnership with the ministry.

Green Rich has continued to clear land, and ministry rangers have confiscated at least 13 unlicensed chain saws at the site, said Delphine Vann Roe, WildAid’s deputy country director.

Interviews at the site also indicated that Green Rich cleared land during the suspension, and that long-running labor troubles continue to plague the project.

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