Nature / WildlifeRules and Law

Public Concerned Lao Forests Will Be Left With No Big Trees

People are seeing scores of wood trucks on the roads every day in some parts of the country, prompting concerns that Lao’s forests may soon be stripped of all big trees (photo posted by Facebook users).

Most of the trucks look overloaded and some do not display number plates, leading to suspicions of illegal timber trading.

“Logging is not taking place in all the woodlands of the country as the public think,” Deputy Director of the Forestry Department Mr Thong-eth Phayvanh told Vientiane Times on Wednesday.

The wood trucks people are seeing may be carrying timber harvested between 2011 and 2013, not wood cut this year.

He said the wood may also have been cleared from areas being developed into hydropower dams or crop plantations.

The government has this year ordered the closure of production forests in a bid to let wooded areas recover.

Mr Thong-eth said the government may reopen production forests later, possibly in 2016, to allow development to continue.

Forests are now badly damaged in many areas, according to the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry.

The main reasons for deforestation are the conversion of forests into agricultural land for food production, the construction of hydropower plants, mining, road building, and illegal logging.

There are five categories of forest in Laos as designated by the government: conservation forest, protected forest, production forest, degraded forest and reforestation zones.

To support the sustainability of forests, officials, soldiers, police officers and members of the public in provinces around Laos plant hundreds of tree saplings along roads, in villages and inside forests on Arbour Day (tree-planting day) on June 1 to replace the damage done to woodlands.

The ministry has reported that the government plans to increase national forest coverage to 65 percent by 2015 and 70 percent by 2020.

The ministry said widespread deforestation in Laos had reduced coverage to 64 percent in 1960, 47.2 percent in 1992 and 41.5 percent in 2002.

Authorities sometimes organise Arbour Day planting activities in the same places, but this is because about 15 percent of the saplings planted die each year.

Arbour Day tree-planting areas have been increasing year by year, since the day was first observed in 1995, but there are no statistics on how many of the saplings survive and how old the trees grow to be.

While people support planting new saplings on Arbour Day, some maintain there should be more protections against the logging of big trees from the country’s forests.

Native forests are one of the most important natural resources in Laos. They are used for a variety of development-related activities such as protected watersheds for hydropower development and for ecotourism ventures.

Source: Vientiane Times