Some of the country's protected forests may be under threat if a proposal from the Vietnam Administration of Forestry's Financial and Planning Department is approved.
The proposal aims to decrease the amount of protected forests while increasing the size of tree plantations across the country. Director of the department Nguyen Nghia Bien said the proposal to reduce the amount of protected forests aims to make the forestry sector an engine for economic growth.
| Farmers take care of accacia seedlings for growing forest in northern Phu Tho Province. |
"Protective forests should be maintained only in areas close to upstream parts of long rivers and large reservoirs," said Bien.
He said reducing the amount of protected forests would make more land available for tree plantations.
The plan on restructuring forestry aims to have the sector reach an average growth rate of 4 to 4.5 per cent "based on an effective use of land and financial resources," he said.
Although land reserved for forestry accounts for half of the nation's total land, its contribution to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is still very low as most forests are scattered and tree plantations are struggling to raise productivity.
Bien said he was advocating for a new way of forest classification that was closer in line with international practice, while helping to increase the sector's efficiency and management.
He said forests should be divided into two types of protective forests and tree plantations or production forests, in stead of the current three categories.
Bien also proposed that tree plantations allow trees to grow for more than 10 years, in a bid to increase the economic productivity of trees cultivated for timber.
He said plantations should also focus more on growing trees used for timber, rather than for wood chips.
"By 2020, revenues from environmental services fees should account for 25 per cent of the forestry sector's total value, and half of that would come from processing industry," said Bien.
Deputy director of Viet Nam Administration of Forestry Ha Cong Tuan said the national afforestation programme of 5 million hectares, which has been implemented during the past 13 years, only focused on planting new forests or restoring degraded forests.
"There are actually many areas that are no less important, including conservation of native forests and work on increasing the value of forestry products," he said.
Tuan said that during the next 10 years, 2.6 million hectares of forests would be planted along with the planting of 50 million scattered trees every year.
Tuan said there were 4.6 million forest growers nationwide looking after forests on a total area of 2.8 million hectares.
He called for more policies to make it easier for people to get access to preferential credits to develop forests in a bid to generate more income for forest growers in the short term.
"When it comes to financing for the forestry sector, banks often apply more stringent requirements and low loan limits because forestry activities have longer investment cycles and are associated with more risks," said Tuan. "That hinders the production activities that rely on forests."
State Budget funding for forestry this year is at VND1.2 trillion (US$57.6 million), an increase of VND450 billion ($21.6 million) compared to last year.