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Charcoal Ban Seen Hastening Mangrove Destruction

By Chea Sotheacheath, The Cambodia Daily, Cambodia
      Nguyen Minh Ngoc, Lao Dong Weekly, Vietnam

Cutting of mangrove forests has actually increased since Thailand’s Agriculture Minister Suwit Khunkitti canceled charcoal manufacturing concessions on August 13, according to Yadfon Association, an NGO in Southern Thailand.
Pisit Chansanoh, president of the association, said "cutting of mangrove has sharply increased. They {the charcoal factories} are trying to cut as much as they can for stock before the ban can be implemented."
Despite the government decision to ban charcoal concessions in mangrove forests made in August, the order to implement the ban had not gone out by the IMMF Environment Times deadline in late October.
The specific figure for the recent mangrove destruction by charcoal factories is not known, but the 401 charcoal manufactures still operating in the country have increased their activity because they acknowledge that charcoal businesses will eventually be shut down, according to Jim Enright, a staff member with Yadfon.
A group of journalists from Indochina, Thailand and Burma recently visited the charcoal factory in Ban Laem village, in Trang province.
Enright, who is manager of natural resources for Yadfon, said: "I visited some charcoal factories in June (of this year) but it was not as active as now."
Some charcoal factory workers denied mangrove cutting for charcoal had increased as a result of the ban. They claimed many charcoal workers have quit their jobs and are seeking other, better paying forms of employment.
Ko Khoan, manager of charcoal manufacturing for See Phee Nong Company, Ltd., said, "the quantity of wood cut per day is not much because the workers have stopped working here… they go and find easier work and get better money than here."
He said that his factory pays .18 Satang (100 in a Baht) per kilogram of mangrove cut.
When asked if the ban was good for sustaining mangrove forests, he said that the forests would be much richer if the mangrove concessions are halted.
He added, "It is good to stop cutting mangrove."
Granting concessions to log mangrove forests is one example of unsustainable government practices, according to Pisit. The Forestry Act has granted the private sector the right to log mangroves since 1941; however, in 1968, the concession system was amended to allow each concessionaire the right to harvest 2,500 to 5,000 rai (1rai =1,600 square meters) for 15 years.
Each year, one strip was to be logged using the clear cut method and at the end of year, the strip was to be reforested and the next strip logged, according to a Yadfon report.
Enright predicted that the ban will not be 100 percent implemented because some Thai people still need charcoal for subsistence living.
He said: "To set up the law is one thing. The difficult part is enforcement of the law."
There is no independent information on when the Thai government will enforce the ban on charcoal concessions throughout the country. Pisit believes that the ban will be implemented when the next government is established.
Pisit said "I am not sure if the ban will be implemented. Perhaps, the policy will be changed... We will have to wait for the new establishment of the government."

Copyright 2009 IMMF.