Reflection on Cambodia (following the case of Minamata disease in Japan): The current practice of the Cambodian government who neglects or bypasses the regulations in approving forest concessions or filling the lakes is not only harmful to natural resource depletion, but also to environment, to human life, and the whole community survival. Current examples includes:
1) the Bokor mountain which have been authorized by the government to private company in the name of development project of palm oil and cassava plantations and livestock farms,and
2) the filling of Boeng Kok Lake, which the private company could start their land filling operation even before the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) had been approved. Though the company recently obtained EIA stated that the lake the Boeng Kok is ?dead lake?no major impact on environment?, there is also remark that some flooding will occur in rainy season and they are unable to provide any specific estimation on severity of risk (Cambodia Daily, “Expert Dipute Boeng Kak Impact Report,” Thursday, March 26th 2009). This should recall to:
Precautionary Principle 15 of 1992 Rio Declaration on Environment and Development (one of the guiding principles of The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) of which the Cambodian Ministry of Environment has ratified this convention in Dec 13 1993) :
?in order to protect the environment, the precautionary approach shall be widely applied by States according to their capabilities. Where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation?.
This precautionary principal places emphasis on the shift the burden of proof to proponents, not the victims or community who will be affected. However, most of the cases, the company is rarely demanded to proof the case, but the victims. Thus the government should take its responsibility to implement the convention that they had ratified.
Risk Monitoring and communication
The stakeholders need to be involved in determine and make decision on any tolerable risk and the access to information must be ensured as provided by the precautionary principle as well as the 1996 Cambodian Law on Environmental Protection and Natural Resource Management:
The Ministry of Environment shall immediately inform concerned ministries whenever the Ministry of Environment finds that natural resources are not being conserved, developed, or managed [or] used in a rational and sustainable manner.
The procedures for public participation and access to information on environmental protection and natural resource management shall be determined by Sub-decree following a proposal of the Ministry of Environment.
This article is not raised to against the development project of the Cambodian government, it yet to provide the framework for the relevant stakeholders to take action on their assigned duties to serve the public interests and to avoid the future cost of risk management system failure. Also, in the case of weak social infrastructure, the poor and affected residents are more vulnerable and they deserved the rights to benefit from that so-called development dream.
Note: this article is interlinked to the previous articles:
Law needs to be enforced at Boeng Kak
Bokor National Park should be preserved
A failure of Risk Management System: a case of Minamata Disease