Woodfuels are the most common sources of energy for the majority of the population in the Kingdom of Cambodia. Firewood and charcoal are often referred to as traditional fuels, yet they remain the dominant source of energy for cooking within the domestic sector, and are used extensively by industry and services.
Cambodia is a predominantly rural society, although the urban areas are the regions of most rapid growth. Data from the National Institute of Statistics (1997) show that 97.7% of the population of Cambodia uses wood energy for household cooking.
Phnom Penh is the economic centre of Cambodia. The city is divided into 7 districts with a total population of approximately 796,939, or 150,280 households, and an average density of 14,480 per square kilometer. Within Phnom Penh, 84% of households rely on woodfuels as their main source of energy for cooking (NIS, 1997). In 1995, firewood and charcoal were estimated to account for over half of the energy sources in Phnom Penh (MIME, 1996a).
As the country's economic centre, it is likely that increased incomes in Phnom Penh will lead to an increased demand for more conventional fuels such as LPG and electricity. Switches from wood energy to LPG have been observed within high-income households, although the overall demand for woodfuels is unlikely to decrease in the foreseeable future due to the increased population. Energy transitions are limited by financial and spatial constraints, and the majority of the population of Phnom Penh are low-income households.
The provision of wood energy is often associated with forest loss. Although not the main cause of primary forest loss, the demand for woodfuels in Phnom Penh contributes to forest loss and degradation. The urban centre is supplied with wood energy from forests as distant as Kratie (approximately 220 km). Unregulated forest cutting has adverse environmental impacts and the inhabitants of the supply areas have already experienced some of these.
The demand for wood energy in urban areas is of concern to relevant government departments, but in order to form and implement appropriate policies for the wood energy sector, it is important to have good information.
In view of the lack of reliable information in Cambodia, the Cambodian Environmental Management Program (CEMP), with financial support from USAID, initiated a small study project to gain an overview of the wood energy flow system in Phnom Penh. The data analysis and report writing stages of the project were supported by the International Development Research Centre of Canada (IDRC) and the Environmental Technical Advisory Programme of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP/ETAP).
The study is an inter-ministerial one, involving the participation of the Ministry of Environment, the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy (Department of Energy) and the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (Department of Forestry).
The objectives of the project are:
· to describe the woodfuel distribution system, including market structures, resource flows, woodfuel types, volume estimates and prices
· to outline the social and economic aspects of energy use, particularly in the residential sector
· to promote the incorporation of wood energy analysis into relevant policy-related initiatives
· to establish and demonstrate a capacity for wood energy research and policy analysis in key government agencies.
Activities conducted to obtain the information include:
· interviews with wood energy traders in Phnom Penh
· discussions with traders at destinations outside Phnom Penh
· observation at checkpoints at the municipal boundary of Phnom Penh
· visits to brick kilns
· research in the main supply areas.
Due to the informality of the urban market, it was difficult to establish a research methodology, so traders were selected for interviews following observation tours of the main depot areas. A detailed questionnaire was prepared for traders, transporters and customers, which was field tested before the data collection began. The project was to provide a broad overview rather than a detailed assessment, so this methodology was quite efficient. Focusing on the main traders soon revealed the forward and backward links to customers and suppliers, enabling the team to quickly recognise the complexities of the distribution system, and to gain an idea of the main supply areas. The supply areas were confirmed by surveys at Department of Forestry checkpoints on the major roads into Phnom Penh, as well as on the River Mekong.
Areas which supply wood energy are Kratie, Kampong Thom, Kampong Chhnang, Kampong Speu and Pursat. Areas selected for study were determined by the proximity of the supply area to the provincial town, and security in the area of study. Therefore, Kratie, Kampong Thom and Kampong Speu were selected.
In the supply areas, a less formal approach was taken, with information gained through discussions with members of the communities. Commune and village chiefs were interviewed initially to gain background information about the area, and then individual charcoal producers and traders, firewood collectors and transporters were interviewed to gain more specific information regarding the amounts traded, sources of wood, destination of product, prices, etc.
The vast majority of woodfuels coming into Phnom Penh are consumed in the town, but onward destinations include Takhmao, Prey Veng and Svay Rieng, indicating Phnom Penh's role as a trading centre.
The information given in this report relates to a short study conducted during the dry season. The volumes traded vary depending on the season, many traders are temporary, and there appears to be no consistent pattern of buying and selling in Phnom Penh. Accurate figures concerning the quantity and value of the trade and forest loss are difficult to determine. Figures given for the supply areas relate to the study areas only and therefore they are likely to be low, as woodfuels are supplied additionally from other areas in the five provinces. However, these figures are used in conjunction with those obtained at the checkpoints. These too are slightly unreliable as the study was undertaken during 12 hour periods in the daytime whereas some transporters reported travelling at night. The associated forest loss is also difficult to assess because fuel supply is not always the main reason for cutting trees, there is no forest inventory, and insecurity prevents detailed study in the forested areas.
The next chapter of this report identifies consumption trends and is based on a study of secondary information from the National Institute of Statistics (1995 and 1997), and the Department of Energy (MIME 1996b and 1996c). Chapter 3 provides an overview of the rural study areas with an assessment of the amounts of wood energy supplied from each area and highlights the differences between the communities in the different areas. In Chapter 4, the urban market structures are described showing the complexities of the flow system and giving estimates of volumes of firewood and charcoal entering Phnom Penh. The socio-economic issues in Chapter 5 illustrate the constraints on fuel switching and therefore, the continuing demand for woodfuels, particularly in the short term. Chapter 6 outlines the environmental impacts of the current unsustainable supply of wood energy and a consideration of those relating to alternate energy forms. An examination of current policies concerning wood energy is outlined in Chapter 7 and conclusions and recommendations are given in Chapter 8. All wood energy figures are stated in conventional units.