Ladies and Gentlemen,
Today, I have a great pleasure to join with you again, Your Excellencies Samdech, Ladies and Gentlemen, civil servants of the Ministry of Environment, in this Conference to take stock of performance in 2005 and set future direction for 2006.
I would like to take this opportunity to express my appreciation to the Ministry of Environment for organizing this very important conference to take stock and set future direction for 2006 and I would like to highly evaluate and cordially appreciate for the all physical and intellectual hard works of Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, management at all levels and government servants of the MOE, in particular H.E. Dr. Mok Mareth, Sr. Minister, Minister of Environment for tireless efforts to fulfill their responsibility consistent with the management policy and to achieve proud results in the past year in protect our environment.
Indeed, preserving natural resources and environment is a challenging and extensive in coverage. In fact, there are no developments which use natural resources without impact on environment. In addition, from one day to another, natural resources and environment of our planet are constantly threatened; this factor has led to environmental and ecological system imbalances, negative changes in weather patterns affecting economies and societies as well as the well-being of human kind in the national, regional and global framework.
Thus, indeed this conference is a good chance for all of us to evaluate and take stock of performance and lessons learned from previous year and to foresee present and future challenges for managing, preserving, conserving and using our natural resources; and also to identify new approaches and measures to manage natural resources and preserve Cambodia environment in sustainable and continual manners.
The Royal Government considers “environmental protection is the necessary condition” to ensure sustainable economic and social development by enhancing equity and justice of natural resource use and natural environment services for the benefit of all people.
The Royal Government is highly committed and has strict measures to eradicate illegal activities such as: illegal logging; including ending the big scale forest exploitation, which led to cancellation of many forest concessions; forest land encroachment; land grabbing; making state owned land into private ownership; illegal fishing; illegal mining and so on. This is and opportunistic activity of small group of people with participation of unethical civil servants that use their positions and authorities to violate law for personal or their group benefits.
In our efforts, the Royal Government has strengthened and improved works related to natural resource management and environment protection, including the formulation of legal structure system for all concerned ministries, authorities at all levels, government institutions and other committees for cooperation and coordination between agencies/institutions, representatives of united nations organizations, international communities, civil society and NGOs to prevent and make intervention to crack down on illegal activities leading to destruction of natural resources and environment, however the results are not as satisfactory as the Royal Government is expected.
The Royal Government has incorporated natural resource management programme and environment protection into the “National Poverty Reduction Strategy” and “National Strategic Development Plan” as well as broadly opening up for participation to implement those actions from both domestic and international development partners. However, as our capacity and capability are limited, we acknowledge that majority of our achievements are also limited. Furthermore, we also recognize that poverty of the people in rural areas has forced them to make their daily living on exploitation of natural resources leading to it deterioration and affecting ecological system and natural environment. Moreover, the limited information technology coupling with people’s low level of knowledge regarding the importance of natural resources, pose difficulties for the government and in particular for the concerned ministry to attain expected results in managing natural resources and environment.
We actually have no doubt that in securing a sustainable development we must ensure a permanent use of natural resources for every need by not severely affecting the natural environment and the needs of generations to come. Based on this view, I would like the Ministry of Environment, related ministries and agencies to continue to engage in the environmental protection activities and to manage the natural resources and our crucial ecology systems at the community, regional and national level toward strengthening of a development process with environmental sustainability and to transform those areas into prosperous community with security and beauty and to become the astonishing natural resort for each and everyone of us.
In addition to the goals that have been set and for those that have not been fully implemented, and in the sense to reinforce environmental protection and natural resource management as well as other development programs, I would like to take this opportunity to raise some views and make some recommendations for the Ministry of Environment, related ministries and agencies as follows:
First- Strategic Plan and Action Plan: In order to ensure environmental sustainability and natural resources we must prepare strategic plan and action plan for natural resource management and environment in accordance with the RectangularStrategy and the National Strategic Development Plan (NSDP) of the Royal Government. In this regard, the Ministry of Environment must cooperate with Ministry of Planning, other related ministries and agencies in preparing the second National Environmental Plan in order to reveal a clear strategy to improve natural resource management and upgrade environmental quality in the six priority sectors including: “Forestry Policy” “Fishery Sector” “Agriculture” “Bio-diversity in the Area of Environment and Forest Protection” “Environment and Energy Sector Development” and “Waste Management”. At the same, I would like to advice all related ministries and agencies to participate and effectively cooperate with one another in order to protect and nurture our great national natural resource heritage and so that they can be used to serve our emerging needs and the needs of our next generations to come.
Second- Conservation and Protection of Environmental Protection Areas: Cambodia has natural resources and some special ecology systems such as Tonle Sap lake, Phnom Krar Vine valley, Mekong River system, Northern and Eastern plain and beaches. These ecology systems provide great benefit for the national economy, especially, agriculture, plantation, fishery, tourism, transportation, and livelihood of the rural community. These ecology systems are shelters for animals, plants, and bio-diversities which have been evaluated and recognized that if we can manage these ecology systems such as water, land, forest, fish, animal and bio-diversity well, it’s not only to ensure permanent environment and natural resources for a sustainable development, but it can also provide supports for national economic growth and better local family economy and help to prevent any disastrous incidence.
In this meaning, the Ministry of Environment must strengthen a closed cooperation with related ministries-agencies, authorities at all levels, Seila Program in order to improve the management and utilization of natural resources with continuity. I would like to take this opportunity to pledge and request to the National Assembly to examine and immediately adopt the “Draft Law on Environmental Protection Areas” which have been proposed recently because the management of the environmental protection areas by law is the basic principle of democracy and the basic foundation to ensure joint benefit for the citizens at all classes and to ensure justice, social security and transparency. At the same time, the Ministry of Environment must try to nurture the protected areas which have the potential for tourism as well as to attract developers to those areas in order to transform them into Eco-Tourism Areas. As for those areas which have the potential for the economy, such as mineral resources and hydro-electricity, the Ministry of Environment must clearly divide them into management and utilization areas with sustainability.
Third- Strengthening the Management of Environmental Protection Areas Community: The creation of environmental protection areas community is the Royal Government’s policy in allowing the people-community to participate in the local environmental protection and upgrading the responsibility of the people-community in the environmental protection areas by allowing them to understand the importance of natural resources that have been enormously contributing to their daily livings since the past. Indeed, strong communities would definitely be helpful to better protect the natural environment. Moreover, for a successful and effective participation from the people-community, the Ministry of Environment must cooperate with authority at all levels in order to educate and to create conditional-community for managing and ensuring righteousness in receiving benefits from environmental protection community with transparency and justice in order for them to be confident and willing to protect and totally prevent the destruction and anarchy that had happened in the community.
Fourth- Management of Core Area of Tonle Sap Lake Center: The Ministry of Environment must make the effort to improve the management of the core area of Tonle Sap Lake center by putting in place all measures to conserve and nurture those areas to become a resort full of various bio-diversities, especially nurturing birds, rare fishes and water quality in order to attract tourists and to be a learning and environmental research center and bio-diversity. Within this framework, the Ministry of Environment must strengthen its cooperation with development partners, related agencies and local authority at all levels with transparency and to communicate and exchange information with one another in order to effectively mange those areas.
Indeed, effective work on those areas would contribute to the protection, conservation and nurturing of bio-diversity resources at Tonle Sap Lake including the conservation of fish-breed, water birds-breed, flooded forest resources and other multi bio-diversity resources as well as contributing to the poverty reduction for the people and to push eco-tourism development sector forward.
Fifth- Management of Wet-Land Areas (RAMSAR): The Ministry of Environment must cooperate with the Ministry of Water Resource and Metheology and other related ministries-agencies in order to prepare standard document to protect wet-land areas with the direction of ensuring effective implementation and management as well as to better cooperate with local authority in preventing the anarchy in filling-up wet-land areas or natural lakes or natural basins because it will destroy bio-diversity resource, spawning areas, reduce flood storage capacity, lost of under ground water current and reduction in water supply.
Sixth- Management of Beaches: Cambodian beaches which stretches over 435 kilometers actually has high economic and tourism potential and could be used for many reasons. However, these areas are vulnerable ecological areas that require careful beaches management. During the last few years provincial and municipal beaches have received fast development due to their potential for sea water fishery, tourism, ports, transportation, industry, trade, infrastructure development, city-populated areas development and other resorts. Such socio-economic activities could affect the shelters and ecology resources along the beaches. Without proper evaluation and effective management, it will not only unable to ensure a sustainable development in these areas but it will destroy the ecology system and could lead to severe environmental pollution.
The Ministry of Environment must closely cooperate with related ministries-agencies, local authority and development partners such as UNEP, GEF, DANIDA, IMO and IDRC in preparing policies, plans, laws, standard documents and education in order to ensure permanent beaches environment with broad participation from local community.
The Ministry of Land Management, Urbanization and Construction together with Ministry of Environment and other related ministries-agencies, local authority must work together to prepare a master plan for beaches development which include research and development and identifying the areas full of important bio-diversity such as rare types of national fish, stone-flower areas, sea weed, and islands which have the potential for preparing environmental protection areas aiming at serving the conservation and tourism in the future. Moreover, we must strengthen law enforcement by taking all necessary actions against encroachment along coastal zone and rooting out those offences. If we do not resolve those anarchies, we will face a lot of consequences including unsustainable coastal development.
Seventh– Environmental Impact Assessment: Indeed, protection and managing environment and use of natural resources will not be sustainable, if development or investment projects do not pass environmental impact assessment that comply with the standard and guidance stipulated in the law. Environmental impact assessment is a legal procedure to assure sustainable development and continuity of natural environment. Therefore, I would like instruct the Ministry of Environment to do environmental impact assessment on all project proposals as stated in sub-degree on environmental impact assessment. The assessment must conduct transparently partaking from relevant ministries and institutions that ensure that the project does not impact on natural, social and cultural environment before it is approved.
Eight– Solid, Liquid and Industrial Waste Management: I frankly appraise the Ministry of Environment that has closely cooperated with relevant ministries/ institutions, local authority with cooperation and information sharing from local community in order to enforce the laws aiming at preventing and reducing pollution to the environment. Particularly, the recommendations from the government on strictly protecting Cambodia away from the world waste dumping place. Ministry of Environment has also cooperated with all relevant ministries/institutions to crack down secret deal of dump waste in Cambodia with high responsibilities. A better environmental protection contributes to the protection of people’s welfare that is a key factor for poverty reduction.
In this regard, I would like Ministry of Environment and competency institution continues to enforce the recommendation in a strict and efficiency manner in which provincial/municipal authority have to seriously manage all kinds of solid or liquid waste at urban areas. At the same time, we need to prepare a master plan on managing liquid waste and sewage in urban area and to prepare legal standard for managing poisonous chemical and dangerous substances that have been imported or produced domestically. By so doing, we will be able to prevent the risk of public health and environmental damage.
Ninth- Environmental Education, Information and Dissemination: for years, environmental education and dissemination has widely conducted by all means such as newspapers, magazines, radios especially the TV spot of questions and answers or short story that depict public awareness and love of environment.
I would like Ministry of Environment continues to provide more intensively and constantly on environmental education to the public and all levels of government officials. Particularly, the ministry has to cooperate with Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport to disseminate environmental knowledge to all fields of education both in public and private institutions. Also, the ministry should pay attention on educating and providing information to community to enable them to participate with environmental officials to protect environment since they live by nature through extracting products and sub-products from the nature.
Tenth- Roles and Responsibilities of Local Authority: Environmental and natural resources management cannot get success without cooperation between relevant ministries/institutions especially local authority. Lately, I encourage all levels of local authorities to cooperate with ministries/institutions to work out on specific issues including the work of Ministry of Environment. However, in reality some local authorities and environmental officials do not well cooperate to manage and protect natural resources and environment. Thus, we always can see some illegal activities such as forest land encroachment, fill-up natural lack for land, deforestation, clearing flooded forest, inappropriate housing construction, etc. For these cases, I would like to stress that it is hard to believe that local authority knows nothing on what occur in its geographical location. I would like local authority who involve in this kind of thing to reconsider and take immediate actions.
In this sense, I would like the Ministry of Environment push the National Committee of Protected Area Management and local authority to strengthen municipal/provincial sub-committee in order to discuss and tackle issues in managing protected area and to take actions to timely preventing and cracking down all anarchic activities that have destroyed natural resources and environment.
Eleventh- Cooperation with Socio-economic Development Program: It is clear that all kinds of these works is a driven force that cannot be avoided especially the cooperation with Seila Program which supports local development in implementation decentralization policy, but also should cooperate with Ministry of Education to protect natural resources and environment with sustainability. At the same time, Ministry of Environment must search for other development partners that have their mission related to environment by requesting them to participate and cooperate in the implementation of the environment protection policy in order to raise the understanding of environmental issues and improve standard of living in their communities.
Twelfth- International Cooperation: Cambodia has actively implemented environmental cooperation in both ASEAN community and international levels because we clearly acknowledge that sustainable development will not be achieved within a country or alone. We need to work together with neighboring countries as well as ASEAN and other countries to jointly settle the problems in the regional and global framework in accordance to the spirits of the submit on sustainable development, which was held in South Africa. Thus, Cambodia becomes the signatory country of various important international conventions.
To implement this spirit, Ministry of Environment has to continuously strengthen and enlarge cooperation with lined ministries and institutions, International Organizations, NGOs and other development partners to implement the conventions and agreements signed by the Royal Government of Cambodia as well as to share the experiences, information and new technologies to ensure the protections of national, regional and global environment with sustainability.
What I have raised above are the keys and necessary measures to manage and use national resources with environmental sustainability aiming at ensuring sustainable development. In fact, political stability and environmental security are cross-cutting issues. Without political stability, we do not have enough time to enforce environmental management. Anyways, environmental degradation, especially unsustainable exploitation of natural resource will affect Cambodia’s opportunity in seizing suitable benefit from these resources, which is the main root of poverty as well as social and environmental insecurities, which will weaken national economy and create social instability.
I believe that the directions and tasks that have been laid out by this conference for year 2005-2006, will be achieved by joint efforts of the managements and all strata of officials in the Ministry of Environment and close cooperation with lined ministries and institutions of the Royal Government of Cambodia, local authorities, Royal Arm Forces, civil societies and NGOs that have actively participated in the reforms of the management, conservation of natural resources and environment to be sustainable according to the plan. In this connection, may I request lined ministries and institutions to absorb all valuable recommendations receiving from the discussion within this conference and effectively and successfully implement them with high responsibility and accountability.
On behalf of the Royal Government of Cambodia, I would like to take this opportunity to highly appreciate lined ministries and institutions, local authorities, and Royal Arm Force for contributing and well cooperating with Ministry of Environment to prevent the offences as well as to maintain and preserve natural resource and environment until getting proud success. Meanwhile, I would like to express my profound gratitude to the development partners for supporting the protection of natural resources and environment. Let me take this opportunity to appeal the development partners to continuously support these tasks in order to ensure sustainable development aiming at contributing to the development of national economy and poverty reduction of Cambodia’s people to be more successful.
Once again, I would like to highly thank and evaluate the achievements that the managements and all strata of officials in Ministry of Environment have already made, especially the active participation in the policy reform programmes of the Royal Government of Cambodia.
Lastly, I wish Samdach, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, national and international distinguish quests and participants all the five gems of Buddhist blessing. May I now declare closing the conference on taking stock of performance in 2005 and setting future direction for 2006 of the Ministry of Environment.