Many households assigned to manage forests in the Central Highlands province of Dak Lac have either returned it to the local government or cleared it for agricultural cultivation, a report in the Lao Dong (Labour) newspaper said on Wednesday.
It quoted the province's Department of Agriculture and Rural Development as saying residents of Ea Sup and Cu M'gar districts have destroyed all of the forest land they had received from the local government in 2001.
In 2007, the Ea Sup People's Committee allocated more than 1,600ha of forest to 193 households in Ea Bung Commune.
However, the residents were not willing to wait for 20 to 30 years as they said it would take to reap some benefits from the forest, the paper reported, adding they cut down the trees to have land for farming. The deforestation began in 2007, but situation turned more serious in 2010 and early this year. With the local government assuming the forest areas were being maintained well, officials were lax in monitoring the situation.
An investigation carried out by the province's Department of Agriculture and Rural Development in May found that more than 1,200ha forest in Ea Bung Commune had been destroyed.
The department also found down more than 1,500ha in Cu M'gar's Ea M'Droh Commune had been cut down for sugarcane cultivation.
Local officials said that they had seen several households using farming machinery to destroy the forest, while farmers claimed they did not know who did it. They admitted to cultivating crops on the cleared land.
Dinh Van Ha used bulldozers to clear about 30ha of forest land he had received from the government. With the machine, he also helped his neighbours do the same.
Ha was fined by local authorities, the Dau Tu (Vietnam Investment Review) newspaper reported, but provided no further details.
The department has suggested that the Ea Sup District administration sets up a team of inspectors to check all of the forest areas assigned to local residents in the district and strictly penalise violators.
Residents, meanwhile, have defended their actions saying it would take decades for them to be able to exploit the matured trees for wood, but they needed money for their daily survival.
At Ea Sup, many households have requested authorities to take back the assigned forest areas because they got no income from protecting and managing it.— VNS