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Bushfires Destroy 100,000 Hectares Of Forests

Source: Vientiane Times

More than 100,000 hectares of forests in Luang Namtha province were destroyed by bushfires that raged for more than a month, officials have said.

The Director of the Agriculture and Forestry Department of Luang Namtha, Mr Phimkeo Thamlasing, told Vientiane Times on Tuesday that the fires spread from the end of January to mid-March.

“According to initial reports, the bushfires destroyed 116,678 hectares of forests in Namha National Protected Area and other protected forests. The fires affected the five districts of Luang Namtha, Sing, Long, Nalae and Viengphoukha,” he said.

The authorities faced difficulties in accessing some of the areas in the mountains, and most of the areas devastated by the fires were very dry and covered by bamboo groves.

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The authorities faced a lot of challenges despite mobilising lots of volunteers in cooperation with the local administration and villages to control the flames. Fortunately, rainfall in these areas in mid-March helped to put out the bushfires, he said.

The authorities believe the initial fire was deliberately started due to the destructive motives of some local residents, who entered the protected areas to hunt animals.

Bushfires have been reported in Oudomxay, Luang Namtha, Luang Prabang and Phongsaly provinces, according to local authorities but have been brought under control now because of the rainfall.

In Oudomxay, the bushfires destroyed more than 18,000 hectares of forests in Phouhiphi Protected Area and other protected forests, according to the province’s Agriculture and Forestry Office.

A total of 5,895 soldiers, police personnel, officials and local residents (including 486 women) in Oudomxay and neighbouring provinces teamed up to fight the forest fires. Rainfall in these areas also helped to put out the bushfires.

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Many hectares of trees within Phounang Protected Area in Xiengman village of Chomphet district were also destroyed by the fire. A forest fire was also reported near the provincial hospital in Phongsaly.

Forest fires occur regularly in Laos, particularly at this time of the year, when timber is dry and many farmers resort to slash and burn cultivation to grow wet season crops.

This year, most fires have been reported within national protected areas and provincial protected areas. Most of them were caused by the destructive activities of local people, including hunting within the protected areas.

The 20 National Protected Areas of Laos cover 14 percent of the country. Dong Natad and Dong Phou Vieng National Protected Areas are located in Savannakhet province, while Phou Khao Khuay National Protected Area is in Vientiane. Nam Ha National Protected Area is in Luang Namtha province and Phou Daen Din National Protected Area in Phongsaly.

Phou Hin Poun National Protected Area is in Khammuan province and Xe Pian National Protected Area in Champassak province. These National Protected Areas contain some of the country’s most unique and diverse plants and animals. Many of them offer the best environments for adventure activities such as trekking, rafting and camping.