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Environment Program

Introduction
Cambodia (181,035 km2), the smallest country in Indochina, is situated between Thailand to the west, Viet Nam to the east, and Lao PDR to the north. Cambodia is a country rich in culture, history and politics, and biodiversity. With its recent emergence from nearly 30 years of conflict, Cambodia is struggling to rebuild many of the economic, social, and physical foundations of the country. More than four fifths of the people still live in the rural environment and the poverty remains a significant challenge. The highest priority of the Government is to alleviate the poverty within Cambodia's population through economic progress and social development.

Basic geographysical description
Cambodia's varied topography and hydrology account for its rich biological diversity. The topography is dominated in the east by the western slope of the Anna mite mountain chain and in the southwest by the isolated highlands of the Elephant and Cardamom mountains. Forests are the most dominant vegetation, covering approximately 55% of the country. Wetlands cover 30% of the land area as Cambodia lies within the plains and valley of the Mekong and Chao Phraya Rivers. The Mekong River and its tributaries and the large Tonle Sap Lake (the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia) dominate the hydrology of the country.

 
 
PURPOSE
The productivity and quality of the living natural resources are vital to the livelihoods of the Cambodian people. Environmental degradation induces lasting changes in the Cambodian basin resources, and represents a major threat for the people who rely on the river for their food and water. Adopting a holistic approach to manage the water and its environment and related natural resources and ensuring that development does not cause unacceptable deterioration in Cambodia is therefore of the highest importance. Consequently SIDO in Cambodia has enshrined protection of the environment and ecological balance. The development objective of the Environment Programme is “An environmentally sound, economically prosperous and socially just Cambodian Mekong River Basin”.
 
 
APPROACH
Cambodia is known as one of the Lower Mekong Basin countries, is in a fortunate position compared with similar river basins. Both the water quality and the environmental conditions are still relatively good and the current development of the Mekong River is still very limited compared to most other large international rivers. With generally low levels of industrial activity in the basin at present, the two immediate concerns regarding water quality are diffuse pollution due to poor catchment land management, and the potential for water quality emergencies arising from spillages or shipping accidents. Also in the Mekong Delta nutrient levels in the water are high and rising, presumably due to intensive agriculture and aquaculture and the wastewater produced by areas of high population density. The immediate objective of the programme is coordinating with Cambodian Government offices to have the capacity to secure a balance between economic development and protection of the environment to ensure a healthy Mekong River Basin capable of supporting the natural resource diversity and productivity which are central to the livelihoods of the Cambodian people”.
 
 

CURRENT PROJECTS and ACTIVITIES

 

Community based eco-tourism (CBET)

  • Community based eco-tourism establishment
  • Process of CBET development
  • Eco-tourism marketing
  • CBET project management
  • Consultation for CBET
 
Environmental training
  • General environmental concept
  • Environmental pollution
  • Waste management
  • Natural resource and management
  • Water resources and sanitation
  • Eco-systems
  • Biodiversity
  • Ozone
  • Climate change
 
 
In addition to current program
It is anticipated that SIDO will follow the International's global conservation approach that it will continue to prioritize its further activities around four principal themes: species, sites, habitats, and people. A significant proportion of the most important areas for birds and other wildlife in Cambodia are wetlands, either those within the Tonle Sap and Mekong Floodplains or those within the dry forest landscape across northern Cambodia. As such, the natural landscape of Cambodia has greatly shaped the activities and priorities of this. Our further activities are also guided by the country's existing protected area system. Currently, many of the country's IBAs are outside of protected areas and therefore do not have appropriate legal protection. Conservation priority is given to those sites that have no legal protection or that have little or no existing conservation presence.
 
Cambodia has 22 Globally threatened bird species of which 4 are critically endangered. These 4 species, Giant Ibis Pseudibis gigantean, White-shouldered Ibis Pseudibis Davison, Slender-billed Vulture Gyps tenuirostris, and White-rumped Vulture Gyps benganlensis are all focal species for on-going conservation activities.
An overarching emphasis of this further programme is the direct involvement and close cooperation with local communities and the appropriate legal authorities. This further programme will recognizes that successful long-term conservation requires the commitment and capability of the local people in and around the conservation area.
 

Therefore, SIDO in order to continuing the activities already underway, this further programme is in the process developing partnerships and initiating similar activities in the inundated grassland IBAs around Tonle Sap Lake and along the riparian habitats of the Mekong tributaries.

By doing partnership with all relevant environmental institutions, SIDO is developing a conservation action plan to manage and protect the country's vulture populations. These species are undergoing devastating population crashes in South Asia and consequently the Cambodian populations are becoming increasingly important.

 

Reason SIDO in Cambodia
Cambodia supports a number of large, relatively intact natural landscapes that have existed, until very recently, with minimal impacts from humans. For example, the Srepok River in northeastern Cambodia represents the largest undisturbed riverine forest ecosystem in Southeast Asia. Due to the loss of lowland forests and seasonally inundated grasslands throughout the Indochina region, the forests of Cambodia remains notably rich in biodiversity. It is the only country in Southeast Asia that still has extensive undeveloped wetlands and dry dipterocarp forests, and healthy populations of large water birds. The most notable of these are the Giant Ibis Pseudibis gigantea and White-shouldered Ibis Pseudibis davisoni, the former of which is now virtually confined to Cambodia and the country is also a stronghold for Greater Adjutant Leptoptilos dubius, Spot-billed Pelican Pelecanus philippensis, and Bengal Florican Houbaropsis bengalensis. Cambodia has some of the healthiest populations of vultures in Southeast Asia and the extensive undisturbed most forests in the Cardamom mountains are the stronghold of the endemic Chestnut-headed partridge Arborophila cambodiana.

SIDO – Environment program was established following the publication of the "Directory of Important Bird Areas in Cambodia - Key Sites for Conservation" (2003). This publication aims to detail those areas in Cambodia that are internationally important for the conservation of birds and biodiversity. Most of these sites lie outside of the national protected areas system and as such are vulnerable to competing development interests. Moreover, relevant Government agencies currently lack the institutional capacity and political leverage to properly manage these protected areas and cannot take on the responsibility of managing additional sites. By working collaboratively with partner LNGOs, relevant government institutions, and local communities, SIDO in Cambodia is working to build a foundation for conservation amongst local stakeholders and within government. The goal is to inform, support, and empower local stakeholders so that biodiversity conservation remains a high priority in land-use planning and natural resource management processes. By bringing the significant technical expertise and global experience of our expertist overseas network, especially from Australia, we hope to make a significant contribution toward the long-term conservation of Cambodia's rich natural resource heritage.

STRATEGY
The Environment Programme aims to assist the target communities to fulfill its strategy that relate to the protection of the environment and prevention and cessation of harmful effects. The programme also supports the other small projects through cross cutting initiatives such as the provision of environmental data and development of tools for environmental planning and management. Assessment and monitoring of water quality, natural resources and ecosystem health form an important basis for data provision. The programme also aims to improve environmental policy and management through advice to and promotion of cooperation among environmental agencies, directly supporting its operational strategic process. Through compilation of existing knowledge and facilitation of research activities the programme promotes a better understanding of the SIDO Work Collaboration. Programme is comprehensive, flexible, and builds on improved mechanisms for co-ordination provided by the organizational structure of SIDO. In contrast to previous and more technically oriented environmental projects, the central focus of the programme is “people in a poverty reduction perspective”.

 
 
Statement on the environmental context
In contrast to neighboring Thailand and Vietnam, Cambodia has very low human population density, a relatively high proportion of undeveloped land (forest, wetlands) and one of the least disturbed coastlines in the world. Cambodia's ecosystems - forests, wetlands, freshwaters, and marine waters - provide rural Cambodia with its main source of income. Despite their importance, ecosystems are degraded and species are threatened due to conversion of wetlands and forests for agricultural use, poor land-use planning, and weak regulatory enforcement, uncertainties in land tenure, hunting and wildlife trading.

Context of operations
Cambodia is still recovering from almost three decades of civil war. Consequently, natural resource management and wildlife conservation are still in their infancy. The institutional problems include an insufficient legal structure, a lack of technical capacity, a lack of financial resources, and a lack of data on which to make informed land management decisions. Today, if all forms of conservation area were totaled (national parks, wildlife sanctuaries, forest reserves, etc.); the country has 27% of its land area set aside for some form of biodiversity conservation. Cambodia's conservation challenge for the 21st Century is to produce an effective conservation network that is integrated with the country's pressing development priorities.
 
Government policies in biodiversity
 
Cambodia's commitment to environmental protection has been demonstrated by a number of significant legal measures to prevent pollution, habitat damage and to protect wildlife, including the creation of the Environmental Secretariat in 1993, the enactment in 1996 of the "Law on Environmental Protection and Natural Resource Management" creating a full fledged Ministry of Environment and the adoption of a National Environmental Action Plan in 1998. The National Assembly has also ratified several international
conventions related to the environment including: The Convention on Biological Diversity, The Climate Change Convention, The Ramsar Convention, CITES, The World Heritage Convention and the Agreement on the Cooperation for the Sustainable Development of the Mekong River Basin. The donor community is diversity in scope and origin. Funds come from a variety of organizations, unilateral and multilateral agencies and governments.
 
Species records
There are no EBAs wholly within Cambodia. The Secondary EBA Area ("Thailand-Cambodia mountains", s085) includes the mountains of south-east Thailand and the Cardamom and Elephant mountains in South-west Cambodia. It is defined by the range of the threatened Chestnut-headed Partridge Arborophila cambodiana, classified as Vulnerable, which is found in evergreen forest above 700 m. A secondary area is an area that supports one or more restricted-range bird species, but does not qualify as an Endemic Bird Area because fewer than two species are entirely confined to it. Cambodia currently has 40 IBAs and a total of 22 Globally Threatened species.
 
Government biodiversity constraints
Cambodia's government institutions are relatively young and still continuing to develop the capacity to institute and enforce legislation. Constraints include:
  1. Limited knowledge, skill and experience among officers and staff in government institutions.
  2. Existing laws are not well implemented due to political influence, uncontrolled development, wealthy people's interests and technical constraints.
3. Due to shared responsibilities among ministries, there exists a great degree of management overlap and conflict between and among the responsible authorities.
4. The lack of funds from both internal and external sources for provinces and municipalities prevents the ministries and other agencies from fulfilling their mandates.
However, these facing problems are being solved in a professional manner and accountability as remarkable notice.

NGOs Involvement
The civil working environment in Cambodia is encouragingly free of government restrictions and interference. The immediate benefit is that this has created an atmosphere where conservation and environment NGOs are relatively free to work throughout the country and initiate a great diversity of projects. The long-term concern is the government's ability and commitment to assuming a conservation role. At present, there are a large number of international conservation and development/aid organisations with projects throughout the country. Local NGOs are a relatively new phenomenon but have been growing in popularity and cover all aspects of social and environmental issues.
 
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