HA NOI (VNS) — Forests in the Central Highlands region are shrinking rapidly, losing nearly 130,000 hectares during the 2007-12 period due to shortcomings in management and protection.
The figure was provided by the Directorate of Forestry, which is calling for drastic measures to solve the situation.
Of the amount, over 107 hectares of natural forests were totally destroyed, it said.
As a result, the natural forest volume in the central highlands provinces including Kon Tum, Gia Lai, Dak Lak, Dak Nong, and Lam Dong, now only accounts for 1.8 million hectares, according to the Directorate's report.
Dak Lak Province over the past five years discovered over 9,000 cases where forest protection regulations had been violated, damaging 8,533 hectares of forests. Meanwhile, nearly 6,000 cases have been reported in Kon Tum.
Serious deforestation occurred in Gia Lai Province where 94 per cent of forest volume was cut down in five years.
According to Nguyen Thi Tra, from Gia Lai Province's Union of Science and Technology Associations, the loss of forests in the province as well as in the region resulted from the conversion of poorly nutrient forestland to rubber plantations without corporate management among related ministries and departments.
Nearly 8,000 hectares of forests, consequently, had been eliminated completely, she added.
Unofficial statistical data revealed that the Central Highlands so far has granted licenses to 700 forestry projects, covering an area of 216,000 hectares, including the 100,000 hectares for rubber plantation.
However, lack of budget as well as irresponsibility of many project owners paved the way for serious forest destruction and encroachment.
Insufficiency of staff is also blamed for the destruction as 56 forestry companies were assigned to manage up to one million hectares of forests throughout the region.
Besides, local authorities' loose management of 1,500 wood processing enterprises is another cause leading to illegal logging of natural forests.
Gia Lai Province's Forest Protection Department last week reported 127 areas at high risk of forest fire while VND5 billion (US$238,000) of budget for fire prevention and control per year was not sufficient.
Four forest fires were reported in the province last dry season, which destroyed 411 hectares of pine trees due to the lack of budget for preventing and fighting fires.
Forest Management Department under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development also warned that many forests in Gia Lai and Kon Tum provinces were put at high warning level of fire.
Meanwhile, the northern mountainous province of Lao Cai on Friday decided to close all forests till this year's dry season in a bid to prevent fires in the region. — VNS