Forestry officials fanned out to provinces late last week with copies of major new logging plans, only a few days before an agreed-upon deadline with the World Bank.
The forestry department agreed in October that it would distribute the 25-year forest management plans for public disclosure by Friday to “concerned provincial governors, agriculture and forestry bureaus, environmental bureaus and commune councils,” according to the “action plan” agreed upon with the World Bank.
If the government abides by the agreement it will receive a $15 million low-interest loan that has been held up to ensure public disclosure of the plans. World Bank officials have said the government is still on track to receive the loan, even though the Bank and other donors say a 19-day public review period set by the government is too short.
The government will be behind schedule for receiving the loan if it does not distribute the plans according to the action plan timeline, said Bill Magrath, resource economist at the Bank’s Cambodian office.
The forestry department sent several groups out to provinces at the end of last week’s Water Festival, said Dennis Cengel, an adviser to the department. The officials will set up meetings at “a number of different levels,” Cengel said.
The distribution is part of what the department calls “intra-departmental review.”
It is unclear how the distribution relates to the 19-day public disclosure period, though the agreement with the World Bank calls for the plans to be made public to anyone who visits provincial offices.
Department director Ty Sokhun could not be reached by phone Monday afternoon. He told villagers who came to collect the plans earlier this month that companies could not cut until they “discuss” cutting plans with villagers.
Top officials from Kompong Thom, Kratie, Kompong Speu and Preah Vihear said Monday they had not received the plans or been given any indications of when they were coming.
“If the plan stays within the previous boundaries of the concessions, villagers will not be affected,” said Kompong Thom governor Nou Phoeung. “But if it is a new plan, I am afraid villagers will be affected. We want to see the plan.”
Stung Treng forestry office director Touch Thea said he received the plan on Friday. He says he has been given about a month to gather comments to submit to the central forestry office.
The long-term cutting plans propose a strategy for strategic cutting so forests are given time to regrow. The plans outline areas where cutting would be forbidden to protect wildlife or natural features like streams. They also survey local populations to determine how they might be affected by cutting.
But the plans have already been attacked by forestry activists and some donors as being inadequate or even fabricated.