Highlands, southern region urged to better protect forests

VIETNAM NEWS AGENCY

DAK LAK — Authorities in the Tay Nguyen (Central Highlands) and Southeastern regions need to tighten measures to reduce deforestation and strictly punish offenders, says Cao Duc Phat, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development.

Speaking at a seminar on forest protection in the two regions held in Central Highland Dak Lak Province last Saturday, Phat said they have had the nation’s worst deforestation record in recent years.

Over the past five years, the forest area in the Tay Nguyen and Southeastern regions has fallen by nearly 160,000ha, accounting for 31.6 per cent of the country’s total deforested area.

Of this figure, 95,500ha have been used for agriculture and other purposes, nearly 52,000ha were plantations that were completely cut down under annual plans, 1,700ha were lost to forest fires and more than 10,000ha were illegally cut down, the seminar heard.

So far this year, the Tay Nguyen and Southeast regions have discovered nearly 9,000 cases where forest protection regulations had been violated, up four times against the same period last year and accounting for 40 per cent of the cases nationwide.

Ha Cong Tuan, deputy head of the Forestry Department under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD), said most of the deforestation cases were in forests allocated or leased to companies for implementing agriculture and forestry projects.

Illegal loggers did not directly destroy forests but they hired local residents to do it and transport the wood for them, making the task of protecting forests more difficult, Tuan said.

Dinh Van Thiet, deputy chairman of the Dak Lak People’s Committee, said methods should be found to help local residents earn a living from forests in a sustainable manner and prevent migrants from moving into forests. Local residents and migrants directly destroyed the forests most often, he said.

Participants at the seminar said some localities have not fulfilled their administrative management responsibilities in forest protection. Many lacked the determination to order implementation of forest protection measures, they said.

They noted that most localities had left the task of protecting forests to rangers and those to whom forest land had been allocated for care and protection, but most of these people were ill-equipped for the task at hand.

In addition, management of wood processing units as well as wood purchasing sites in the two regions was lax and ineffective, the seminar heard.

Experts stressed that strong sanctions against violations were needed to protect forests.

Phat asked authorities in the Tay Nguyen and Southeastern regions to carry out an inventory of their forest land and reform the operations of agriculture and forestry farms as well as forest management boards.

He also told the regions to tighten inspections of the transfer of forests and forestry land for other purposes and the operations of wood processing units. They should work with competent agencies and local authorities to effectively fight illegal logging, Phat said.

The Tay Nguyen and Southeastern regions now have nearly nine million hectares of forests, accounting for 27 per cent of the country’s total.

On Sunday, Phat worked with authorities of the 115,545-ha Yok Don National Park in Dak Lak Province, the country’s largest reserve, on methods to evaluate deforestation within its boundaries.

Phat said his ministry had ordered the park’s management board to co-operate with competent agencies to tighten their protection measures and strictly punish rangers who joined hands with illegal loggers.

The national park’s director had to bear a part of the responsibility for letting deforestation happen in the park, he said. —VNS

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