Newly-chopped-down teak tree
According to an undisclosed source illicit logging in Dong Van and Tien Phong Communes in Que Phong has continued. While it's difficult to distinguish legal and illegal wood exploitation in Dong Van Commune due to their discreet operations, illicit logging openly takes place in Tien Phong Commune.
When construction of the Hua Na hydropower plant started, a huge forested area was chopped down to facilitate the building of a dam. Thousands of cubic metres of wood were exploited. Illegal loggers have taken advantage of this to mingle their smuggled wood in with legal timber working.
The protected forest around the hydroelectric dam has been destroyed. Loggers often store the planks of wood in drainage ditches.
Director of Que Phong District’s Forest Management Branch, Nguyen Trong Le denied the claims, saying, “There is no illicit logging in the protected forest. We find it difficult to define what are protected areas without more advanced technology. I think local residents have just exploited wood from productive woodland for house building."
Locals wishing to exploit wood either in production or from protected forests need to get permission from local authorities and their operations must be carried out under the supervision of forest rangers. However, they could see no rangers working around the area in order to ensure that such logging is legal.
60-centimetre thick teak tree trunk
Wood transported openly
Each household that was compelled to relocate due to the construction of Hua Na hydropower plant were allowed to exploit 10 cubic metres of wood to build their new houses in resettlement areas. They were required to seek approval from local authorities in advance, however, according to Le, only a few households have complied with this requirement.
“Illegal loggers often mingle their smuggled wood with the woods taken by local residents. With the help of locals, they easily transport the wood out of the forest. If detected, locals claim the wood was theirs, so it’s difficult to deal with illicit loggers", Le said. He added that there would be no illegal logging of forests in the resettlement areas.
However, at the resettlement area in Tien Phong Commune we saw many motorcycles carrying big blocks of wood.
Que Phong District’s forest management station is only 100 metres from the top of the road, but hundreds of motorbikes still carry illicitly logged wood every day without encountering any checks from local rangers.
Journalists encountered a group of loggers who forced them to delete all their photos and threatened to further action.
With the help a local forest ranger and some local residents, we went through the resettlement area where we saw four to five men sitting on 2.5-metre long tree trunks near to Nam Nien Stream. “That area has mobile reception, these guys are guarding the stock for other loggers. If they see any strange people or rangers coming, they will inform other loggers not to take smuggled wood out that day,” a local man said.
Deep inside the village, a group of loggers gathered in two stilted houses, guiding 50 motorbikes in the surrounding areas.
When encountering the men, DTINews journalists claimed to be local officials.
They said that they came from Que Phong District’s Phu Thuong Commune and had logged the forest for several months. Their main task is to carry tree trunks to a storage area. A young man said they earned VND300,000-VND400,000 (USD13.7-18.3) per trip.
Though Nguyen Trong Le denied that illicit logging was taking place, he also admitted there were problems, “This area is too large, and illicit loggers know all the rangers. It’s really difficult for us to deal with them. When being chased, loggers pose a threat to passers-by. When being stopped by rangers, they will either throw the timber away or speed up”.
As a result, illegal logging in Que Phong District continues as local authorities stand idle.
Planks of wood
Logged wood stored in ditches
Motorcycles carrying illicitly logged wood
Wood transported from Xop Co – Nam Nien resettlement area
A storage area
Motorcycles used to transport wood
Wood logged from the protected forest
Is this wood of low quality?