Vientiane Times, February 14, 2013
The government will face challenges in achieving forest cover of 65 percent by 2015 as targeted while certain segments of society fail to understand the need for the sustainable management of resources.
Forested areas would be significantly larger if everyone acted responsibly in protecting forests and realised the importance of trees, the Deputy Director General of the Forestry Department, Mr Khamphay Manivong, told Vientiane Times on Tuesday.
Many people believe the target figure for forest cover could be achieved were it not for the large number of individuals and businesses who have no concern for the future and continue to cut down trees at an alarming rate, despite new regulations to encourage reforestation, according to the forestry authorities.
Some local authorities lack effective measures to regulate forested areas, while some are in cahoots with unscrupulous businessmen and engage in illegal logging.
Forest cover currently stands at almost 50 percent or about 17 million hectares, including reforested areas and plantations, said Mr Khamphay.
Forested areas have increased since 2002 after the government took steps to raise awareness of the issue among the younger generation. Officials are working to persuade every organisation of the importance of forests and green areas and are requiring every development project to undertake environmental protection activities.
Mr Khamphay said that if the forestry sector is unable to gain the cooperation of other agencies, and public apathy and poor management persist, the 65 percent target figure may not be achieved.
Over the last decades of the twentieth century, the loss of forest land in Laos rapidly increased due to various land-use practices, such as shifting cultivation, commer cial logging, commercial agriculture, and tree plantations.
In 1982 forest cover was 11.6 million hectares or about 49 percent of the total land area. In 1992 it was 11.1 million hectares or 47 percent of the land area, and by 2002 the forested area had dropped further to 9.8 million hectares or 41.5 percent of the total.
This shows there was a rapid decrease in forest cover between 1992 and 2002 of 1.3 million hectares or about 5.5 percent, while from 1982 to 1992 the forested area lost was 468,900 hectares or about 2 percent.
The area of dry dipterocarp forest increased from 1.2 million hectares in 1982 to 1.3 million hectares in 2002 largely due to unsustainable harvesting and commercial logging.
The government has directed ministries and other bodies to postpone the granting of land concessions for new industrial tree plantations including rubber and eucalyptus, and will evaluate existing plantations in terms of their relative benefit.
In the past, the granting of land concessions by local authorities without detailed surveys being carried out enabled some investors to secretly encroach into National Protected Areas and people’s farmland.
Laos will be able to receive more income from carbon credit if forests can be developed more sustainably in the future.