VietNamNet Bridge – The growing problem of illegal deforestation in Viet Nam has led to a swift response from the Government in order to prevent it from spiralling out of control.
In a directive issued on Monday, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung laid out drastic measures to clamp down on the issue. Among them, he requested local authorities to prioritise forest protection activities.
Forest rangers patrol in Xuan Thuy National Park in northern Nam Dinh Province. In a directive issued on Monday, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung asked local authorities to give priority to protecting the nation's forests. (Photo: VNS)
Under the directive, People's Committees in provinces and cities would have to report up-to-date figures on the areas of land covered by forests in their localities, with special attention on natural forests. They would also have to designate the responsibility of forest management and protection to authorities at grassroots levels and forest owners.
Reports showed that illegal deforestation had been occurring in a number of localities over the last few months. The severity of offences had also increased, with offenders growing bolder in their bids to avoid law enforcement officers, causing public outrage.
In an interview with Viet Nam News yesterday, director of the Forest Protection Department Nguyen Huu Dung said: "Hands-on experience shows that effective forest management only occurs in areas where a strong commitment is consistently demonstrated by local authorities down to each individual citizen in the community.
"That's why forest protection begins at the grassroots level," he said. Dung, whose department comes under the Viet Nam Administration of Forestry, said that illegal deforestation had mainly swept through the Central Highlands, several central provinces and the northern mountainous regions. The culprits were mainly indigenous, most of them living in poverty and driven by economic motives.
"What's worse is that these loggers are being manipulated by speculators, who are pulling the strings from behind the scenes," he said.
The Prime Minister has also called for more punitive measures for those that continue to disregard the law. He asked relevant agencies to track down the ringleaders of illegal gangs and deal with them in accordance with the law. Those perpetrators would then be publicly named and shamed to deter other potential offenders.
Replace poor-quality forests: Ministry
The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development has called on provinces and cities to ensure that "poor-quality" natural forests are replaced with better quality forests and not used for other purposes.
The ministry describes poor quality forests as those lacking thickness and with a low growth rate.
It said some projects to replace poor-quality natural forests in the past had not been implemented in accordance with regulations.
In some instances, the forests had been felled to make way for industrial and other crops instead of being replaced with higher-quality trees, it said.
Local authorities were instructed to monitor wood processing mills and regularly carry out random inspections. Mills that failed to provide evidence of where they acquired their input materials, or that were not operating in line with local regulations would have their licences revoked.
Any project to convert forest into the farmland or for other uses which received permission since 2006 would also be put under close scrutiny. Those reneging on the contracts would have their allocated forest revoked.
The assessment of new project proposals would temporarily be put on hold until the review of existing projects was concluded.
Dung said most of these measures were already in place, but would be implemented more stringently on a regular basis, rather than in phases of brief crackdowns.
According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, 39.1 per cent of Viet Nam's land is forested, while the Food and Agriculture Organisation estimated that between 1990 and 2010, in terms of forest coverage, Viet Nam lost an average of 221,700ha or 2.37 per cent per year.
VietNamNet/Viet Nam News