|Over 43 hectares of forest destroyed by poachers in An Lão District of the coastal central province of Bình Định. — VNA/VNS Photo Nguyên Linh|
HÀ NỘI – Prime Minister Nguyễn Xuân Phúc said yesterday that the specific forest management and protection responsibilities of local authorities, Party units, collectives and individuals should be made clear.
Chairing a nationwide teleconference on Saturday, Phúc said serious shortcomings in forest management and protection has resulted in continuous forest reduction for forest cover, particularly in the Central Highlands region.
According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, there were 14.37 million hectares of forests nationwide in 2016, up 315,826ha from 2015. However, forest coverage in the Central Highlands region has been falling by around 3,170ha a year for several years, to a little more than 2.55 million ha in 2016.
From 2012-2017, as many as 4,218ha of forests were cut down illegally, accounting for 11 per cent of the total lost to legal felling and change in forest use.
In the first nine months this year, 1,697 cases of illegal logging were discovered, 757 of them in the Central Highlands. Up to 418ha of forests were damaged in the region during this period, up 53 per cent year-on-year from 2016. In the Central Highlands province of Đắk Nông alone, 225ha of forests were destroyed in nine months, up 99ha from 2016.
Some localities still allowed the use of natural forests for other purposes, contravening regulations, he said. “There is a hydropower project that was not licensed but started to cut down forests to get land for construction, affecting the ecological system,” the PM said.
He said forest reduction and deforestation were happening because of low awareness, loose management, ineffective co-operation between relevant ministries and agencies and the irresponsibility of several officials and cadres.
Many localities lacked the determination to handle violations, he said.
“It is unbelievable that some authorities say they’ve not seen any illegal logging in their localities. It (what has been lost) is a big tree, not a needle, so how could they not see it?”
The PM wanted localities to continue directing inspections and reviews of deforestation hot spots. They should also step up investigations and punish violators under the law, he said, adding that information about the punishment and the identity of the violators should be publicised for the whole society to know and supervise.
Both individuals and institutions need to be held responsible for letting illegal logging happen in their areas, he said.
Localities needed to deal with uncontrolled immigration, enhance communication and raise the awareness of residents about the need protect the forest instead of destroying it for production, the PM said.
Phúc said some of the tasks that should be implemented resolutely throughout the nation include putting a halt to felling natural forests to grow commercial trees on plantations, strictly monitoring forest-use change for other purposes including the construction of small hydropower projects.
Authorities should be resolute and determined in revoking licenses, stopping socio-economic projects that fail to meet their afforestation obligations or pay environmental fees.
The PM also directed all departments and agencies to strictly implement the Resolution on sustainable forest protection and development adopted by the 12th National Party Congress, considering it an important solution to create jobs, improve local incomes and raise forest cover to 42 per cent by 2020.
He praised the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, agencies and localities for protecting and expanding forest coverage.
Forestry value rose by an average of 6.75 per cent during the 2013-2016 period, while timber output increased threefold to an estimated of 18 million cu.m in 2017. The export of wood and wooden products is expected to hit US$7.3 billion this year. — VNS