What Happened to Cambodia's Environment Protection Law ?

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What Happened to Cambodia's Environment Protection Law ?

Post by CEOCambodiaNews »

In Cambodia, a sweeping new environment code languishes in legal limbo
by Andrew Nachemson on 26 August 2020

Deforestation, illegal sand mining and other environmental problems are rampant in Cambodia, which has lost nearly a quarter of its tree cover since 2000.
In 2015, the country’s Ministry of Environment began drafting a new suite of environmental laws, purportedly aimed at completely overhauling the country’s environmental governance.
Five years later, the law remains in draft form, and civil society representatives who were initially consulted say they have been shut out of the process.

In Cambodia, the Mekong River winds past Southeast Asia’s largest remaining lowland evergreen forest before filling up Tonle Sap, the region’s largest freshwater lake. The river, lined with valuable sand, is home to an abundance of endangered species like the Mekong giant catfish and giant freshwater stingray. It also holds more common fish species that make up the main source of protein for millions of Cambodians. The forests, too, house rare and threatened animals like the fishing cat and clouded leopard, as well as prized timber.

Rather than appreciating Cambodia’s natural beauty and biodiversity, many of the country’s well-connected tycoons have long seen it as a source of personal profit. Timber traders and sand dredgers, often closely linked to the Cambodian government, have plundered forests and rivers, destroying nearly one-quarter of the country’s tree cover in less than 20 years and sending riverbanks plunging into the water below. Mangroves, which protect Cambodia’s delicate coastal ecosystems from the elements, have also been cleared en masse to make room for agriculture projects and large-scale development.

Enter Say Sam Al and the Environment and Natural Resources Code. In the face of this rampant misuse of the country’s resources, Sam Al was unveiled as the new minister of environment in 2013, and purportedly set to work reforming Cambodia’s environmental laws, which had done little to slow the steady march of destruction.

In 2015, the Ministry of Environment began drafting the ENR Code, a sweeping piece of legislation that was meant to revolutionize the country’s entire environmental law framework.

But more than five years have passed since the government first began working on the legislation, and two years since the most recent draft was submitted. As the bill languishes in legal limbo, Cambodia’s natural resources continue to be plundered at an alarming rate.

Menghoin [environment program manager at the NGO Forum] said he hopes to see the law enacted soon, but adds he is “concerned.” Last year, he attended the annual forum of the Ministry of Environment, where, he said, officials remarked that, “the technical team is still working with relevant ministries to clear some points, especially to clarify responsibility.”

In other words, the Ministry of Environment is still discussing how to divvy up authority with other relevant ministries, such as the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Mines and Energy. Other sources indicate that this process is more of a conflict than a conversation.

Marcus Hardtke, a conservationist with decades of experience in Cambodia, calls the ENR Code a “power grab” by the Ministry of Environment seeking to take control of valuable resources.

Hardtke says conservation in Cambodia is about “state control over resources and land,” whereby government officials aid and profit from the illegal exploitation of natural resources. The ministry that controls the land and resources benefits from this arrangement, while the others are left out in the cold.

Read the full article: https://news.mongabay.com/2020/08/in-ca ... gal-limbo/
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