Forest lands stir controversy
HA NOI — Land disputes between State forest enterprises and local people have turned sour in many localities nationwide, said director of the Consultancy on Development Institute Pham Quang Tu at a workshop in the capital yesterday.
A key objective of the workshop was to review the effects of the eight-year-old Party Politburo Resolution 28/NQ-TW and the six-year-old Government Decree on State Forest Enterprises (SFEs) Reform.
Tu said under the Government decree, SFEs made assessments with literature and maps and did not venture out into the field on fact-finding missions.
"In 2011, just about 702,000 hectares or about 63.2 per cent of forested land was planned to be returned to farmers," Tu said.
"This is the reason why most localities have not been able to implement the intended plan to hand over forested land to households and local communities that are in dire need of plots to help improve their livelihoods.
"As a result, serious conflicts occurred between SFEs and local people. The former controls huge assets, yet fails to turn them into wealth, while the latter doesn't have land to profit from.
"It is sad that each year more than 100ha of forest are lost and nearly 50 per cent of SFEs operate at a loss," he said.
For example, the Dong Bac SFE in Huu Lung District of northern border Lang Son Province has been allocated 14,124ha of forest. However, by now more than 50 per cent of its forested area has been invaded and used by people. In 2008, there were 111 disputes reported, followed by 90 cases in 2009 and 142 in 2010.
Nguyen Tien Dung, chairman of Que Son Commune, Que Phong District, central Nghe An Province, said inhabitants living in the commune were of the Thai, Kho Mu, Muong and Kinh ethnic groups. More than 40 per cent of the households were considered poor.
"A big problem facing people in Que Son is the shortage of land for housing and production. The Que Phong SFE has only four official staff members who have to manage some 5,000ha," Dung said.
As a result, the Que Phong SFE has cultivated only 450ha of acacia mangium trees and another 450ha of protected forest so far. The remaining land lies idle while nearby residents do not have land to till.
According to Dung, land allocated to SFEs must have a slope of over 15 degrees, so he does not know why the Nghe An authorities have decided to allocate 100 per cent of the land of Que Son Commune to the Que Son SFE.
"Such a decision made the people of Que Son become landless," he said.
Dung has several times asked the provincial authorities to allocate 1,000 ha to people in Que Son for production and dwelling.
"This is the only way to help the Que Son people escape poverty," he emphasised.
Many participants at the workshop agreed that it was imperative to involve local people in the review of the implementation of the Party Poliburo's resolution and the Government's decree on SFE reform.
Tu said a key purpose of the decree was to make the enterprises work more efficiently and further contribute to local socio-economic development.
"We're here today to review forest assessment with the hope of addressing the land shortage for local people and to ensure there is forested land for ethnic people to live on and to enhance their culture," Tu concluded. — VNS