Cambodia’s forest loss in 2016 increases

Newly-released satellite imagery shows Cambodia’s forest were destroyed last year at a rate 30 percent higher than in 2015, but Cambodian officials claim that deforestation is declining, according to The Phnom Penh Post Online report on Tuesday.

Released by the University of Maryland, the new findings track forest cover loss globally using satellite imagery. Results show that not only 2016 was worse than the year before, but of the 16 years for which deforestation was recorded, 2016 was the fourth worst with around 200,000 hectares lost.

The imagery also shows rampant logging in Cambodia’s northeast which has been a conduit for illegal exports of timber to Vietnam.

It should be noted that the increase in forest cover loss, both in 2014 and 2015, coincided with the formation of a committee to tackle illegal logging and illegal timber exports to Vietnam, headed by National Military Police Commander Sao Sokha.

Marcus Hardtke, a long-time anti-logging activist, said that the new data shows that Virachey National Park was still suffering logging problems and nothing had happened to stop the problems despite pledges of action being made by authorities concerned throughout the years.

Environment Minister Say Samal questioned the new findings, saying they didn’t match with his official data, but he did not provide details.

Spokesman of the Agriculture Ministry’s Forestry Administration, Keo Omalis, said he had not seen the new findings, but he claimed deforestation was declining.