Profit from ELCs ‘doesn’t rec­tify eco­log­i­cal im­pact’

En­ergy cost for Bit­coins sky-high

The Phnom Penh Post - - BUSINESS - Cheng Sokhorng Mar­lowe Hood

THE gov­ern­ment has col­lected over $ 6 mil­lion in rev­enue so far from more than one mil­lion hectares of eco­nomic land con­ces­sions (ELC), says a re­port from t he Min­istr y of Agri­cul­ture pub­lished t his week.

How­ever, the amount col­lected has been crit­i­cised by NGOs which say ELCs do not prov ide eco­nomic ben­e­fits.

The min­istr y’s fig­ures show that the gov­ern­ment has va li­dated a tota l of 1,178,646ha as ELC to 229 com­pa­nies across t he countr y, col­lect­ing $ 6.64 mil­lion in renta l fees.

Af­fil­i­ated Net­work for So­cia l Ac­count­abilit y head San Chey said the rev­enue [earned from the com­pa­nies] is worth­less com­pared to t he eco­log­ica l im­pact [they have caused]. He in­sisted t he min­istr y in­crease the va lue of the ELCs ac­cord­ing to t he mar­ket prices.

He said when ca lcu­lated, t he amount is only $ 5 per hectare on av­er­age which is less ben­e­fi­cial for t he econ­omy while em­i­gra­tion con­tin­ues to rise.

“What t he gov­ern­ment is do­ing with these land con­ces­sions in terms of Agri­cul­ture de­vel­op­ment is not enough to jus­tif y t he losses from them. Nei­ther are they ben­e­fi­cial for the Cam­bo­dian peo­ple as those com­pa­nies only hire work­ers f rom t heir own coun­tries.

“Some com­pa­nies only come to clear the for­est and make a profit. Then they stop op­er­a­tions,” Chey said.

How­ever, min­istr y spokesman Srey Vuthy said the profit does not only come from renta l fees, and that the gov­ern­ment ben­e­fits more from the com­pa­nies’ busi­ness op­er­a­tions.

“There is a lot of ta x money go­ing to t he state. It is not based on t he land con­ces­sion only,” he said.

He said the 229 com­pa­nies t hat re­ceived ELCs from the gov­ern­ment are t he most ac­tive ones in busi­ness.

Those com­pa­nies, he said, had cul­ti­vated 438,250ha and cleared 515,701ha. They pro­vided 64,119 jobs.

Vuthy said the min­istr y had a lso can­celled t he li­censes of 248 com­pa­nies which were in­ac­tive af­ter re­ceiv ing ELCs.

“We fol­low the ELC com­pa­nies closely. We can com­pro­mise if any one of them has fi­nan­cial prob­lems. But if a com­pany is in­ac­tive, we’d with­draw ap­proval. We need t he in­ter­na­tiona l in­vestors to work a long wit h our loca l in­vestors too,” he stressed.

Chey said the gov­ern­ment should in­crease its prof­its from ELCs, as t he land of fered a high po­ten­tia l for t he agri­cul­ture sec­tor.

“The gov­ern­ment should in­crease the fee based on the env iron­men­tal im­pact, sur vey ing the cur­rent mar­ket, and open­ing it to pub­lic auc­tions to look for po­ten­tia l in­vestors.

“This will make t he sec­tor well de­vel­oped and prof­itable for t he peo­ple. We should en­cour­age loca l agri­cul­tura l in­vestors,” he said. EX­TRACT­ING a dol­lar’s worth of cryp­tocur­rency such as bit­coin from the deep Web con­sumes three times more en­ergy than dig­ging up a dol­lar’s worth of gold, re­searchers said on Mon­day.

There are now hun­dreds of vir­tual cur­ren­cies and an un­known num­ber of server farms around the world run­ning around the clock to un­earth them, more than half of them in China, ac­cord­ing to a re­cent re­port from the Uni­ver­sity of Cam­bridge.

Min­ing vir­tual cur­ren­cies with a real-world value, in other words, car­ries a hid­den en­vi­ron­men­tal cost that is rarely mea­sured or taken i nto ac­count.

“We now have an en­tirely new in­dus­try that is con­sum­ing more en­ergy per year than many coun­tries,” said Max Krause, a re­searcher at the Oak Ridge In­sti­tute for Science and Ed­u­ca­tion and lead au­thor of a study in the jour­nal Na­ture Sus­tain­abil­ity.

“Blockchain”

“This year, bit­coin is on track to con­sume more en­ergy than Den­mark,” he said.

Den­mark con­sumed 31.4 bil­lion kilo­watt hours in elec­tric­ity in 2015. As of July 1 of this year, Bit­coin min­ing used up ap­prox­i­mately 30.1 bil­lion kilo­watt hours, ac­cord­ing to the study.

The highly com­pet­i­tive prac­tice of min­ing cryp­tocur­ren­cies re­quires hun­dreds, even tens of thou­sands, of linked com­put­ers run­ning in­ten­sive cal­cu­la­tions in search of the In­ter­net equiv­a­lent of pre­cious met­als.

New coins are awarded to those who com­plete cal­cu­la­tions first, with the trans­ac­tion con­firmed and en­tered into the cur­rency’s shared pub­lic ledger, known as the “blockchain”.

The top 100 cryp­tocur­ren­cies have a cur­rent mar­ket value of about $200 bil­lion (175 bil­lion eu­ros), ac­cord­ing to the web­site coinmar­ketcap.com.

Bit­coin ac­counts for more than half of that amount.

“We wanted to spread aware­ness about the po­ten­tial en­vi­ron­men­tal costs for min­ing cr yp­tocur­ren­cies,” Krause said.

“Just be­cause you are cre­at­ing a dig­i­tal prod­uct, that doesn’t mean it does not con­sume a large amount of en­ergy to make it.”

HENG CHIVOAN

A woman col­lects cas­sava at an ELC in Kratie’s Sn­uol dis­trict .

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