Published: Friday 31 January 1997

-- Devastated by three decades of war and currently mounting corruption, the state of environment in Cambodia seems to be faring the worst. Accor-ding to environmentalists, unchecked harvesting of trees, which has stripped the nation of half its forest cover since 1970, has recently escalated alarmingly following political infighting in the country.

Forests that once covered 70 per cent of the country now range over just 35 per cent, said a London-based group Global Witness. The group charged in a report that Cambodia's ministers and officials were involved in the destruction of the nation's forests by virtually selling off all the resource in a secret logging pact signed between the prime ministers of Thailand and Cambodia.

Said Sam Raisley, a former finance minister, "Already we are seeing an acceleration of erosion, flooding and the siltation of rivers and lakes. We are beginning to starve in the drought and drown in the floods." Besides funding the Khmer Rouge's insurgency, Cambodia's hardwood logging supports inlay, furniture and high-grade home construction activities both in and outside the country.

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