Stung Treng Concessions Worry Environmentalists

The granting of two new land concessions totaling nearly 20,000 hectares in Stung Treng province’s Sesan district have environmentalists concerned that forest will soon come under the axe.

The 10,000-hectare Sopheak Nika Investment and 9,917-hec­tare Sal Sophea Peanich tree plantations were approved by Prime Minister Hun Sen following a review of their proposals that included the Pro­vincial Depart­ment of Environ­ment in the process, officials said Mon­day.

According to documents ob­tain­ed Monday, the two firms were granted permission to plant acacia, rubber and teak trees in Kom Phun and Kbal Romeas communes after Agri­culture Minister Chan Sarun sent a letter to the prime minister re­questing the concessions.

Pich Darong of the World Con­servation Union said his organization is worried that old-growth jun­gle will be cleared to make way for the plantations. “The area has tall trees and thick jungle,” he said.

Tep Bunnarith of the Cultural and Environmental Preservation Association, whose organization works in the Sesan area, said that the concession areas consist of second-growth forest but with tall trees and a rich wildlife.

Environment Minister Mok Ma­reth could not be reached for comment Sun­day or Monday.

Stung Treng Governor Khim Seila said that after receiving the letter from the Ministry of Agri­culture, he asked provincial level officials to conduct a study on the likely effects of the tree plantations.

“I don’t know if the Provincial Department of Environment reported to the national level. That is their business,” he said. “The Ministry of Agriculture played a big role in the concession, I have no right to op­pose it,” Khim Seila said. “I just follow or­ders.”

In minutes of a provincial meeting during which an evaluation of the concessions was discussed, the land is described by a joint-committee as new-growth forest that had been regularly cut since 1990, according to a copy of the document.

Om Makarry, the provincial for­estry administration chief, would not confirm if the concessions in­cluded old growth forests . “The relevant ministries have studied this already, so you do not need to ask this question,” he said Sunday. “The only thing left is to clear the land for the nursery,” he said.



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