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Dien Bien loses forests to illegal loggers

Update: August, 17/2015 - 08:55
Rice is planted in a logged forest in the northern mountainous province of Dien Bien's Muong Nhe District. — Photo

HA NOI (VNS) — Northern Dien Bien Province has lost 22,000ha of forest because of illegal logging, and the loss is expected to increase as forest rangers admit they cannot stop illegal logging.

Figures indicate that forest areas in the province's Muong Nhe District has fallen to 72,000ha as of December last year, from 88,000ha in 2010, which means a total of 16,000ha has lost their forests.

The illegal logging has taken place in most areas having forests throughout the district, including Lenh Su Sin, Huoi Phi Nhat and Muong Nhe communes.

At Lenh Su Sin Commune, trees have been replaced with barren hills on an area of 3,000 hectares.

According to Sung Go Long, head of Phu Ma Village in the commune, there have been 350 migrant households in the village that have cut down 650ha, out of 1,000ha, of local forests to reclaim land for cultivation.

The group of 49 native families were unable to fight the migrated households to protect the forest, he said. With the presence of forest rangers, the migrants would form a group of almost 60 people to raid the authorized areas.

Lo Van Thanh, head of the district's ranger department, admitted the failure. "We are exhausted. We have only 22 personnel and each has to protect 5,000ha. We cannot stop the illegal logging anymore," he said.

Thanh added that they have not received support from local authorities in fighting against aggressive migrants, allowing them to cut down trees both in daytime and at night.

At another commune in the district, Muong Nhe (same name with the district), residents who are authorized to control nearby forests said they failed to protect them. Ma Cong Sit, a resident, blamed local authorities who have been reluctant in dealing with the illegal migration and logging.

Meanwhile, a ranger official said the district's figure of 16,000ha of lost forest is much lower than in reality, which is almost 22,000 hectares. Thao A De, deputy chairman of the district, said the lost area is only 478 hectares, refusing to explain how 22,000ha of forest has disappeared from the map.

Population reports showed that the district increased by more than 5,000 people from 2012 to 2014. People who migrated from other provinces had to cut down forests to create land for cultivation, it was noted.

Ha Cong Tuan, Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, said responsibility for protecting forests is with local authorities.

However, Lo Van Tien, deputy chairman of Dien Bien Province People's Committee, said penalties have been issued to forest ranger officials in areas with forest losses, adding that the consideration of illegal migration would take time.

With such a situation, forests in the province are expected to decline sharply, as there is no force for combatting the illegal logging by migrants. Experts are concerned about the safety of lowland communities in the coming rainy season, due to the impact of forest losses. — VNS

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