Officials call for halt to natural forest clearing

VietNamNet Bridge – All projects that seek to use forest land for non-forestry purposes should be stopped and exploitation of natural forests should be suspended immediately in order to deal with rampant deforestation in the Tay Nguyen (Central Highlands) region, delegates agreed at a seminar held in Pleiku City.

Another key measure to save the region's remaining forests is to strengthen forestry management, they said.

Organised by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, the seminar on forest management, protection and development in the Tay Nguyen region was attended by authorities and officials of five Central Highland provinces - Gia Lai, Kon Tum, Dak Lak, Dak Nong and Lam Dong.

According to a report tabled at the seminar, from 2007 to 2011, the forest area in the Tay Nguyen has fallen by 130,000 ha, with natural forest accounting for 100,000ha of this loss.

The conversion of forest land for other purposes and illegal logging were main reasons for the loss, the seminar heard.
Provinces in the region in recent years have issued policies to attract investment projects on forestry land, including afforestation and development of rubber plantations.

They have granted investment licences to 700 projects on a total area of more than 200,000ha of forestry land.
Most of the deforestation happened in forests allocated or leased to companies for implementing agriculture and forestry projects.

Pham The Dung, chairman of the Gia Lai People's Committee, said the construction of many hydroelectric plants in the region also led to the shrinking of forests.

Besides, relevant agencies were not unified in the task of forest management and protection, he said, adding: "If we do not take action, the continued destruction of forests in the region is inevitable."

Ha Cong Tuan, Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, asked forestry management departments in the region to tighten measures, regularly inspect wood processing establishments and strictly punish offenders.

Participants at the seminar agreed that localities should implement seriously the suspension of projects relating to the transfer of forests, especially protected and special use forests, for other purposes.

Besides, provinces should work with competent agencies to effectively fight illegal logging, they said.

Localities and relevant agencies should continue reviewing and adjusting zoning plans for three kinds of forests – protected forests, special-use forests and productive forests towards ensuring their survival.

They also suggested that from next year, localities and relevant agencies stop natural wood exploitation plans of 49 enterprises, only permitting seven others that apply sustainable forest management methods to exploit the dwindling resource.

Delegates stressed the need for strong sanctions against violations.

As of last year, the region was estimated to have nearly 5.5 million hectares of natural forests.