Committee Formed to Create Plan for Land Use Nationwide

Senior officials from across the government have started drafting a master plan that aims to map out the future locations of everything from roads to cities and de­velop­ment zones across the country.

Land Management Minister Im Chhun Lim chaired the first meeting of a 20-member National Committee for Land Manage­ment, Urban Planning and Con­struction last week in order to push ahead with the plan, said Beng Hong Socheat Khemro, spokesman for the Ministry of Land Management.

“Urban planning and land management is a very big job that cannot be done by a single ministry,” Mr. Socheat Khemro said. “It’s time for the establishment of this committee to improve our work.”

Officials at local NGOs that follow land issues closely—Adhoc, Licadho and the NGO Forum—said they knew nothing of the new committee. The groups have complained for years that the government has been pursuing policies regarding land at the cost of rampant deforestation and forced evictions.

Nicolas Agostini, a technical assistant for Adhoc on land and resource rights, urged the government to work closely with donor countries, NGOs and local communities while putting the national plan together.

“A lack of consultation in the process of drafting a national land-use plan may lead the government to adopt a sub-standard document which could be used to val­i­date evictions and land grabbing and to further threaten the land tenure of the most vulnerable people,” he said.

“Conversely, the government would show a political will to find sustainable solutions to the land crisis if it consulted with relevant stakeholders and took the time to make sure the national land-use plan is consistent with the overall legal framework.”

An official at Germany’s foreign development arm, GIZ, said it was already working with authorities in three provinces on local land use plans that will eventually be approved by the new committee and fed into a comprehensive, nationwide plan.

Franz-Volker Mueller, team leader of GIZ’s land rights program in Cambodia, said it had been helping to draw up Battam­bang prov­ince’s plan since 2005 and was “al­most done.” GIZ is also working on similar plans for Takeo and Kom­pong Chhnang provinces.

Mr. Mueller said the provincial plans lay out the locations of many things, including “roads, electrical lines, settlements and where to put which settlements.

“It’s a very comprehensive plan,” he said. “It clearly sets targets where development should take place.”

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