– Your Excellencies,
– Ladies and Gentlemen,
Today, I have honor and great pleasure to join again with Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, staffs of the Ministry of Environment, national and international guests in this important conference on “stock-taking of environmental sector in 2006 and setting the direction for 2007” all over the country.
I would like to take this opportunity to express my compliment to the Ministry of Environment for organizing this conference on stocks-taking and I highly appreciate the efforts of Your Excellencies, Ladies, Gentlemen, who are at the management level of the ministry and staffs for brilliantly executing the environmental management and protection policy of the Royal Government with a prideful results in the last year.
Certainly, the conference which is being held now, is a good opportunity for us to reconsider on the stocks-taking of last year’s works and experiences and to foresee the challenges in the natural resources management and environmental protection in the future. Moreover, this conference also provides enough opportunities to collect suggestions, recommendations and good experiences from all participants, all relevant institutions and development partners in order to formulate an effective plan and clear future direction of works that we have to jointly achieve in the coming year and in the future to assure the environmental eternality and sustainable development.
Indeed under this framework, the Royal Government has strongly committed to implement conventions, treaties and international agreements, especially the implementation of the decision of Summit on Sustainable Development inJohannesburg, South Africa, in 2002 and Cambodia Millennium Development Goals, especially to address climate change raised in the ASEAN-Europe Head of States meeting at Finland in the early 2006.
As I have frequently pointed out that the national and economic reconstruction greatly relies on economical and potential use of natural resources without depletion or extinction. In general, sustainable development must ensure the sustainable use of natural resources to meet all demands without serious impacts on the natural environment and needs of the next generations, especially we need to remember that the enormous wealth such as rivers, lakes, forests and mines in the Kingdom of Cambodia inherited from our ancestors are also the possession of our next generations.
Indeed, sustainable development can be achieved only when the poverty can be addressed, which means that if the natural resources and eternal environment lead to sustainable development, then the poverty of people would be eliminated. Meanwhile, the sustainable development requires a clear, comprehensive and realistic policies, plans and programs with the political will to implement as well as to mobilize resources in the society and friendly countries to achieve the imposed targets.
To implement this spirit, the Royal Government set the serious measures against offenders involved in the deforestation and banned large scale forest exploitation through annulling many forest concessions. The serious measures were taken against offenders in forest land encroachment, state land possessions, illegal fishing, illegal mine extractions and processing basil oil and etc. The activities involved a few number of opportunist group with the collusion from the few officials who utilize their roles and power to abuse the law for their own benefits.
For instance, the Royal Government has established the National Land Dispute Resolution Authority last year which solved some of the issues related to land by granting legal tenure to those people who have lived on the land for many years by issuing them with titles that have been authorized and recognized by the authority. Moreover, the Royal Government has also seized the protected land forest and state land which were illegally grabbed by some individuals. The Royal Government will continue with this action by completely eradicating land grabbing and confiscating all types of state land which were illegally occupied by those individuals by any means and at all costs without mercy.
Once again, I would like to make a public warning to those individuals who are somehow related to the issue mentioned above to immediately stop their actions and return all the protected forest and state land back to the state so that it can be used for cultivation. At the same time, I would like to call on the Ministry of Environment as well as all related ministries and institutions to conduct studies and report to me directly. I would like to stress that “regardless of the person’s rank and position, if they are directly involved or stand behind the land grabbing, they must be punished”.
In addition to the objectives that have been set so far and in order to enhance the environmental protection activity and natural resource management for further progress, I would like to raise some views and provide some recommendations for the Ministry of Environment and other related ministries/institutions as follows:
1- Strategic Plan and Action Plan
The Ministry of Environment in cooperation with the Ministry of Planning and other related ministries/institutions, must review and adjust the national environmental planning every 2 or 3 years in order to reflect the clear strategy to improve natural resource management and to upgrade environmental quality in the 6 priority sectors including “agriculture”, “fishery”, “forestry”, “biodiversity in the natural and forest protected area”, “the development of energy and environment sectors”, and “waste management”.
2- Environmental Conservation and Protection
Cambodia is rich in natural resources and ecology systems that provide great benefits for the national socio-economy, especially, for agriculture, plantation, fishing, tourism, transportation, and the livelihood of the rural communities. These ecology systems provide shelters for animals, plants and biodiversity. It is generally believed and recognized that with good management on these systems, it will not only ensure the sustainability of the environment and natural resource for the sustainable development, but it could also help to support the national economic growth and improve the family economy as well as helping to prevent unexpected disasters.
I would like to take this opportunity, to once again remind the authority at all levels and the environment officials not to issue titles of ownership or other related documents related to the sale, transfer of land around the natural conservation and protected forest areas. In case of violation “the offenders will be responsible and held accountable by the law”, and this kind of action has already been applied to some high ranking officials such as those in charged at the Virakchey’s park and Koh Kong.
3- Strengthening the Management of Community at the Environmental Protection Zone
The establishment of environmental protection zone community is the policy of the Royal Government which allowed the people’s participation in helping to protect the local natural environment and encouraged the responsibility of the community in the environmental protected zone by educating the people about the importance of natural resources that have been supporting their daily livings since the ancient time. Therefore, the community must learn to properly utilize and benefit from those natural resources.
Indeed, strong community will definitely help to provide a good protection for the environmental protected areas. To achieve success with high quality from the community people’s participation, the Ministry of Environment must cooperate with authority at all levels to educate and establish some kinds of community rules for managing and ensuring equity in receiving benefits from the community with transparency and justice, especially, to create confidence and willingness of the people in protecting and preventing all types of anarchy and destruction that used to occur in the community.
4- Management of the Core Zone of Tonle Sap Biosphere
The Ministry of Environment must strengthen the management of the core zone of the biosphere which is located in Tole Saplake, especially, it must take measures in protecting and preserving that area so that it can become a resort full of biodiversities such as the conservation of rare birds, fish and water quality. At the same time, the Ministry of Environment must cooperate with related ministries/institutions, authorities at all levels, development partners by sharing information with one another to effectively manage that area. Indeed, good implementation on that area contribute to the protection and conservation of biodiversity resources in Tonle Sap lake such as the conservation of rare breed of fish, birds, flood forest and other biodiversity resources which could help contribute to the poverty reduction and enhance the development of eco-tourism as well as improving revenue to be used for other development objectives.
5- Management of Wet Land Area (RAMSAR)
The Ministry of Environment must cooperate with the Ministry Water Resource and Meteology and other related ministries/institutions in preparing legal standard documents to protect the wet land area in order to ensure the effective implementation and management as well as making good cooperation with the local authorities in preventing the anarchy offilling the wet land area or natural lakes or natural water reservoirs since it will lead to the destruction of biodiversity resource, fish spawning area, reduction in the flood absorption capacity of the lake, damage of the underground water current balance and the reduction of water supply capacity.
6- Management of Coastal Area
The Cambodian coastal area stretches over 435 km, provides great potential for the economy and tourism by offering multi types of usage. During the last few years, all cities and provinces located along the coast have experienced fast development due to the potential of saltwater fishing, tourism, seaport, transportation, industry, trade, infrastructure development, municipal development and resort development. These particular types of socio-economic activities do not only impact the shelter and ecology resources along the coastal area, but they also destroy the ecology system and could lead to serious environmental pollution. Therefore, the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction as well as the Ministry of Environment, related ministries/institutions and local authorities must work together to prepare a master plan for the development of the coastal area by conducting research studies to identify those areas that have biodiversities such asrare types of national fishes, coral reefs, seaweeds or islands that have the potential for the development of natural protected areas aiming at serving the conservation sector and tourism in the future.
Once again, we must strengthen the implementation of the law by taking all types of measure to eradicate the anarchy situations along the coastal areas by rooting out all causes of violation occur. Indeed, no proper measure has been taken to tackle the issues of violation at the coastal areas. Hence, to be effective in addressing these issues, I would like the Ministry of Environment to cooperate with the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction and the local authorities to prepare a list of land holders or illegal owners for me, if there is no owner, the land will be confiscated and returned to the state.
7- Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)
It is absolutely true that the environment protection, monitoring and exploitation of national resources would not sustain, if the there is no appropriate socio-environmental impact assessment following the standard or guidelines stipulated in the laws and degrees; because EIA is required by law to promote and ensure the eternal development and sustainability of natural environment. Therefore, I would like to encourage the Ministry of Environment to continue demanding for EIA reports of the main investment projects which already stated in the sub-degree on Environmental Impacts Assessment and must thoroughly and transparently monitor with the participation of all relevance ministries, institutions, public and civil societies in order to make sure that all those projects would not seriously impact on our natural, social and cultural environment before admitted by the Royal Government.
I would like to remind and warn once again that those opportunists who exploit natural resources and lead to the deterioration of environment and natural resources for instance the land erosion and the water pollution in streams and rivers. In this regard, I decided to annualize some projects such as mineral exploration at the high slope and hydro-electricity dam which flood too many forests and impacts on the people living.
8- The Solid, Liquid and Industrial Waste Management
Actually, the Ministry of Environment has closely cooperated with relevant institutions, local authorities and local communities in order to prevent and reduce the environmental pollution, especially to strictly enforce the government’s recommendations released last several years by restricting Cambodia away from being the world garbage field.
Meanwhile, I would like to ask the Ministry of Environment and the associated authorities to enforce this restriction more strictly and efficiently. The provincial and municipal authorities must have rigorous measures to manage and collect rubbishes, all sorts of solid and liquid wastes at their provincial towns and cities, so that the roads, boulevards, public places and resorts are always clean and beautiful. The Ministry of Environment must prepare regulations to manage both imported and domestic hazardous chemical and toxic substances in order to prevent the danger to public health and environmental disasters.
9- Environmental Education, Information and Dissemination
For many years, environmental educations and disseminations were broadly conducted by using all means such as newspapers, magazines, radio channels and notably video spots, for example, debate forums for instilling love and care conscience and knowledge on the environment to the public. However, the changes and progress of environmental issues will never end. Thus, we have to seriously and regularly continue to educate the public and all-ranking government officials. Particularly, the Ministry of Environment must work together with the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports to mainstream the environmental concept into all level of study curriculum of both public and private institutions as well as other vocational training centers. The Ministry of Environment must also concentrate on education and providing the environmental information to the communities to attract their participation in environmental protection with the environmental officials, because they are living by nature and exploit natural resources in term of produces and sub-produces.
10- The Roles and Responsibilities of Local Authority
The environmental protection and natural resources management could not success without the collaboration from the relevance ministries/institution, especially the local authority. So far, I always encourage all-level of authorities to cooperate with the specialized ministries and institutions to implement various tasks including with the Ministry of Environment. However, some local authorities and provincial-municipal environmental staffs did not closely cooperate to manage and protect national resources and environment. That is reason that we always see and hear about the forest land encroachment, the natural lakes landfill and sell, deforestation, flooded forest clearing, mangrove clearance, inappropriate house construction, the sand production that damage the environment etc. it seems very difficult to believe that the local authorities do not know the stories happen in its own territories.
In this regards, I would suggest the Ministry of Environment, the National Committee for Protected Area Management and local authorities to undertake rigorous measures to timely address, crack down and prevent the anarchic activities and the destruction of natural resources and environments to ensure sustainable environment and development.
11- International Cooperation
Cambodia has begun actively taking part in the regional and international environmental cooperation, because we doubtlessly recognize that the sustainable development could not achieve only within the Cambodia’s border or alone. We need to cooperate with neighboring countries as well as ASEAN nations and other the countries in order to address the common issues under regional and global framework following the spirit of the World Summit on the Sustainable Development held in South Africa.
Cambodia has ratified various mains conventions which not only upgrade the prestige of Cambodia in the international arena as it expresses that our nation contributes and is responsible of addressing the global environment issues, but it also provides opportunities to develop our country through receiving financial and technical assistances, capacity building, clean-technologies transfer that are environmental friendly such as renewable energies. In this spirit, the Ministry of Environment must continue to strengthen and expand the cooperation with all the ministries, institutions, local and international organizations and development partners to implement all international conventions and agreements that Cambodia is a signatory and to exchange the experiences, information and access to modern technologies.
The aforementioned points I made are the key and necessary measurements in the sustainable management and utilization of natural resources toward a sustainable development which is the prerequisite condition to achieve the poverty reduction of Cambodian people and economic growth. Moreover, the participation from public is another requirement factor to sustain this sector since it not only links to the benefit in their daily life, but it is also the sources of their welfare both in the current and future time.
Obviously, the political stability and environmental security are interlocked. Without political stability, we do not have enough time to strengthen the environmental works. Moreover the destruction of the environment, especially the unsustainable natural resources exploitation, lead Cambodia to lose opportunity in exploiting maximum benefit from the resources which is the main caution of poverty and social insecurity. The environmental insecurity also leads to the weakening of national economy and social instability.
I strongly believe that the directions and work plan that worked out by the conference for year 2005-2006 got success through the concerted effort among managements and officials of Ministries of Environment at all levels and the closely cooperation among the relevant ministries, institutions, local authorities, arm forces, civil societies which actively participated in theReforms of Management and Conservation Natural Resources and Environment to be sustainable as in the action plan. I also expect that all relevant ministries and institutions will effectively implement the above recommendations and get success with transparently and responsibility.
On behalf of the Royal Government of Cambodia, I would like to take this opportunity to compliment all relevant ministries, institutions, all level local authorities, royal arm forces, and development partners who have contributed and cooperated with the Ministry of Environment to prevent the illegal activities as well as preserve and conserve the natural resources and environment with prideful success. Also, I would like to appeal to all relevant ministries, institutions, all level local authorities, royal arm forces, and development partners to carry on its support to ensure the sustainable development aiming at successfully contributing to economic development and poverty reduction of Cambodian people.
Last but not least, I wish Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, national and international guests and the participant five gems of Buddhist blessing. I would like to close the Conference on Stocks-Taking of Environmental Sector in 2006 and Setting the Future Direction for 2007.