Open Letter to Prey Lang Stakholders

Dear Prey Lang Stakeholder,

I would like to draw your attention to recent documentation of Prey Lang Community Network
(PLCN), the EU Joint Research Centre, and Global Forest Watch showing increased illegal logging
within the Prey Lang Wildlife Sanctuary.

PLCN’s map with records of illegal logging activities can be viewed interactively at
https://bit.ly/2vTzum3 or https://maps.co/map/5e601df55c01248266087502283a . By scrolling the
mouse over the map, the exact location and type (stump, planks, area cleared, transport of timber) of the illegal logging activity is presented. Site-specific documentation of each entry on the map is
available upon request. A static representation of the above maps is shown in Fig. 1.

Fig. 1. Forest disturbances documented by PLCN December – March 2020.

The data of PLCN corresponds with satellite imagery obtained with the Forest Canopy Disturbance
Monitoring (FCDM) tool, developed by the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission.

The FCDM tool supports the detection of forest canopy disturbance from satellite remote sensing
and can provide indication on forest degradation processes. Canopy disturbances in Prey Lang that
occured between December 2019 and mid February 2020 can be viewed on Fig.2. Download the
original map at https://drive.google.com/open?id=1XleO6JD0Y5g1tQ1QYAOqzkmNkF-lZ-MF

Fig. 2. Forest canopy disturbance of the Prey Lang Wildlife Sanctuary, December-February 2020 detected by the FCDM tool of the Joint research Centre (JRC) – European Commission (EC). The Magnified areas resemble intensified forest canopy disturbance in the Southern and Northern part of the Sanctuary.

The total extent of the forest canopy disturbances for 2018 and 2019 can be viewed in the attached
file.

The deforestation is also documented by the Global Land Analysis & Discovery (GLAD) –
University of Maryland, supported by the Global Forest Watch. Weekly Landsat images show forest
loss at a 30m resolution. There has been approximately one thousand GLAD forest loss alerts for
Prey Lang per week since the beginning of 2020: http://bit.ly/39LEKa7 . Different layers can be
added to further the analysis. The data set shows an increase in forest loss in the southern and
northern part of Prey Lang, which is in line with the data of PLCN (Fig 1.) and the Forest Canopy
Disturbance Monitoring (FCDM) tool (Fig 2.).

The two graphs below show the number of GLAD alerts in 2020 (Fig. 3 and 4). Please notice that
during the week in which the Cambodian Ministry of Environment held a ceremony in Prey Lang
and controlled access to the forest, the number of forest loss alerts spiked to more than 11.000

Fig. 3. Forest loss GLAD alerts from Global Forest Watch 2020.

 

A tree blessing ceremony planned by PLCN in collaboration with a number of civil societies
organizations to be held 22 and 23 February was banned by the authorities. Rapid forest loss has
occurred in the area of the planned PLCN ceremony. We are concerned that the PLCN tree blessing
ceremony was banned due to government-sanctioned illegal logging of protected resin trees in the
area.

As of today, PLCN is still banned from entering the forest and is currently unable to conduct patrols
and collect data on forest crimes, biodiversity and climate change. PLCN members can only watch
as illegal loggers freely enter Prey Lang and convoys of trucks transport timber out of the forest.

PLCN has been at the forefront of environmental protection efforts in Cambodia since its formation
in 2001. They have bravely defended Prey Lang while many of Cambodia’s forests have been
plundered as officials either profited from or ignored, rampant deforestation. Despite the
designation as a protected area in 2016, Prey Lang remains under serious threat due to rampant
illegal logging.

The conservation of Earth’s remaining rainforests is essential to any hope of preventing catastrophic
damage caused by climate change. It is worth noting that Cambodia has been ranked as one of the
most vulnerable countries to climate change. The United Nations has stated that β€œeliminating
emissions from deforestation could reduce global net emissions by up to 30 per cent” .1Β This is
acknowledged in the Cambodian government’s Climate Change Strategic Plan 2014-2023, which
includes β€œthe sustainable conservation and management of forest resources” as one of its objectives.2

The Prey Lang stakeholders are urged to take urgent and meaningful action to stop the illegal
logging and investigate ongoing forest crimes. This includes a call on the Cambodian
government to guarantee a safe and enabling environment for environmental human rights
defenders to conduct their work without fear of reprisals.

Sincerely yours,

Ida Theilade
Faculty of Science
University of Copenhagen

 

 

 

 

1 UN Environment Programme, https://www.unenvironment.org/explore-topics/forests/why-do-forests-matter
2 Royal Government of Cambodia, Cambodia Climate Change Strategic Plan 2014 – 2023,
https://www.cambodiaip.gov.kh/DocResources/ab9455cf-9eea-4adc-ae93-95d149c6d78c_007729c5-60a9-47f0-83ac-7f70420b9a34-en.pdf

Slide Presentation of Β Forest Canopy Disturbance in Prey lang Wildlife Sanctuary 2018-2019 UCPH -Technical support: Joint research centre of the European Commission.