Deforestation and Cambodia’s strong economic growth have resulted in an increase in the price of charcoal, an energy source the poor are dependent on, charcoal vendors say.
“I cook with gas, because coal produces too much smoke and the neighbours will complain,” she said.
“But I know one kilo of coal now costs 1,200 riel instead of 1,000 last year.”
Khan, a tuk-tuk driver whose wife sells food, said the price increase was due to the fact that more charcoal needed to be brought from rural areas.
“The coal price has increased as more and more trees around the city disappear,” Khan said.
“As a result, coal needs to be imported from the provinces, or even from other countries, which is costly.”
Firewood and charcoal form the main sources of energy for households and many small and medium-size enterprises, such as palm-sugar producers, noodle factories and brick and tile industries, according to a background document to Cambodia’s National Forest Program from the Technical Working Group on Forestry and Environment (TWG-F&E).
The French NGO Group for Environment, Renewable Energy and Solidarity (GERES) said wood-based energy represented 85 per cent of Cambodia’s energy consumption.
“Given the increasing population, especially in rural areas, it is likely that demand will increase. Sustainable supplies of firewood and charcoal, therefore, need to be sourced through promotion of private, multi-purpose plantations and community forestry, supported by the energy sector’s plans towards alternative energy sources and improved energy efficiency,” the TWG-F&E report says.
The number of households projected to use charcoal as an energy source in Cambodia will rise to more than one million in 2015 from about 500,000 in 2008, according to a 2008 study conducted jointly by Cambodia’s Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy, the UN Development Program and GERES.
The ministry could not be reached for comment.
Coal-fired plants have been the focused priority for Cambodia’s power-development plan during recent years, according to an August, 2012 report from the Economic Institute of Cambodia.
“The less forest we have in Cambodia, the more the price of charcoal will rise. This will affect the poorest, who can’t afford to cook with gas stoves,” NGO consultant and CEO of Sustainable Green Fuel Enterprise Carlo Figà Talamanca said, adding that alternatives needed to be promoted.