Fears that local governments are leasing forest land to foreign investors willy-nilly have been quashed.
| The development of the nation’s forests is on track |
Minister of Planning and Investment (MPI) Bui Quang Vinh last week told the National Assembly that localities around Vietnam were strictly obeying the government’s orders on the leasing of forest land to foreign-backed afforestation projects.
In March, 2010 Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung ordered local authorities to place a moratorium on the leasing of forest land to foreign investors until the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) and MPI completed a review of projects of this kind.
The request came amid public and National Assembly concerns that forest land leased to foreign investors was in tracts of old-growth forest, at watersheds and in strategically significant border locations.
Vinh reported that only 18,571 hectares had officially been leased to foreign companies, and not the nearly 300,000ha cited by National Assembly deputies. Of that 18,571ha, some 15,268ha is in use, with 13,871ha given over to forest plantations and 1,397ha accommodating office facilities of project investors.
According to the MPI, during 1995-2006 only one foreign-invested forest plantation project was licenced, this was in Binh Dinh province. From July, 2006 to March, 2010, another nine projects of the type were green-lighted, but two – in Hoa Binh and Lang Son provinces – had their licences revoked because of delayed implementation.
This means Vietnam is now home to eight foreign-backed afforestation projects, with 288,974ha carved on their investment certificates. All of these certificates were granted from 2006 to 2008.
The eight projects, which all will be implemented within 50 years, include Japanese-backed Vietnam Quy Nhon Forest Plantation Company’s 9,777ha project licenced in 1995 with land having been leased in Binh Dinh province.
South Korean-backed Vinaphygen Company’s 671ha project was licenced in 2006 with land leased in Binh Phuoc province. US-backed Green Tree Company’s 50ha project was licenced in 2007 with forest having been planted in Phu Yen province.
Then there were Hong Kong-backed InnovGreen group’s five projects in Lang Son, Quang Ninh, Nghe An, Quang Nam and Kon Tum provinces. Vinh and MARD Minister Cao Duc Phat said no more forest land would be leased to foreign investors in the future. Vinh cited the example of a Viet Kieu (overseas Vietnamese) investor from the US having his proposal to plant forest in Phu Yen province rejected.
“Inspections’ results show that localities have seriously abided by the government’s procedures for leasing forest land [to foreign enterprises] and granting investment certificates. Nothing abnormal can be seen at the leased areas as they are bare hills and mountains,” Vinh said.
Phat noted that the MARD, MPI, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, and localities’ authorities had seriously examined the leasing of forest land to foreign firms and provided a clear-cut solution to this problem.
“We are continuing to inspect all these projects. Any project located in areas sensitive to national security and defence will be removed,” Phat said. “I would like to repeat that localities are also examining such projects once more.”
Vinh said the MPI had already completed a draft decree which will replace Decree 108/2006/ND-CP guiding the execution of the 2005 Law on Investment. This will set out more stringent regulations on conditions and procedures for licensing foreign-backed forest planting projects. “This draft will be submitted to the prime minister soon,” he said.