The Asia Development Bank (ADB) funded concession review, one of the most crucial elements of forestry reform in Cambodia, has been crippled by time and financial constraints resulting from shortcomings in the ADB management process. The review, a major recommendation of the World Bank funded TA Projects in May 1998, was intended to identify those concessions which should be terminated for repeated infractions, and those which should remain, with re-negotiated contracts.
The Royal Government of Cambodia (RGC) expected the concession review to be scheduled for January 1999, but the concession site inspections did not commence until October 1999.
This resulted in:
· Site inspections being carried out in the wet season. Consequently, the review team have not witnessed any harvesting operations or log movements. Access to the concessions was affected by bad road conditions, limiting the time available to carry out the inspections.
· Only 12 out of 21 concessions are scheduled to be visited, just 57% of the total.
· The site inspectors spend one day in each concession. Concession sizes range from 60,000—766,000ha.
· Only year 1999 and 2000 coupes (2 out of 25+ cutting areas per concession) are inspected. Thus, the majority of concession area is not inspected.
· Concessionaires’ forest management practices are judged purely on the basis of the one-day inspections. Therefore, ‘one the ground’ compliance with contracts, a crucial part of the review, are also judged on the basis of a snapshot one-day visit.
· It is likely the review’s recommendations will err on the side of caution. This, coupled with the fact that none of the concessionaires’ historical records, including illegal activity and poor forest management, are being taken into account by the review, means that concessionaires who have severely depleted their own and other concessions are likely to enjoy impunity for their actions.
The review team have found that all of Cambodia’s concession land will be exhausted within seven years (some are currently logged out) and that current cutting levels cannot/should not be sustained. Also, every concessionaire has breached their contract for failing to achieve the required investment targets. “These findings are shocking enough,” said Patrick Alley of Global Witness. “The whole future of concessions in Cambodia needs to be reviewed—the forests cannot sustain 21 concessions—period.”
Global Witness discussed these issues with the ADB on 1st December 1999. The ADB stated that the site inspections of concessions had been extended by four weeks and that they would advise the review team to utilise all available information. They also confirmed that they will not recommend termination of any concessions. If the former two actions are carried out, it will be an improvement. The latter point confirms that the reviews findings will be bland. In any event, unless urgent changes are made, the review will still be far short of the ‘intensive’ inspections described in Fraser Thomas’ inception report.
Press Release / Dec. 2, 1999