Vientiane Times, 5 May 2014
The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry aims to complete a survey on the remaining 780,000 hectares of production forest, the forest allocated for logging, which has yet to be surveyed and assessed by 2015. Minister of Agriculture and Forestry, Mr Vilayvanh Phomkhe made the announcement recently at a meeting between the government cabinet, the Vientiane Mayor and provincial governors in Vientiane.
The government has approved 51 production forest areas across the country covering about 3.1 million hectares in total. Of these, officials have completed surveys, as well as logging and management plans for an area of more than 2.3 million hectares, the minister told the meeting.
So far in 2013-2014, officials in charge have completed surveys on only 148,400 hectares or 29.9 percent of the yearly plan of 500,000 hectares. As of the middle of April, a total of 69,888 cubic metres of timber has officially been felled, representing 12 percent of the annual approval to cut 580,072 cubic metres, Mr Vilayvanh said.
During the remaining months of this fiscal year, the minister said, he will encourage officials to carry out logging and collect non-timber forest products in accordance with the plan based on the approval of the government. In a move to increase forest cover, he added, the ministry will also direct its officials to fulfill the annual reforestation target, including planting trees and rehabilitating degraded forest.
To achieve this, Mr Vilayvanh said, officials have set an ambitious plan to collect 15,800 kilogrammes of seeds to germinate seedlings for this year’s tree planting efforts which normally begin in June with the wet season rains. This year, the ministry has set a target to plant trees on 30,000 hectares of land; to pursue the ambition, officials intend to produce 30 million seedlings and rehasilitate an area of 572,000 hectares of report.
The move is designed to pursue the target set by the government to increase forest cover to 65 percent of the country’s entire area by 2015 and 70 percent by 2020. It was reported previously that Laos used to have one of the highest percentages of forest coverage in the world. In 1940, 70 percent of Laos was covered with forest, comprising around 17 million hectares. In 1992, forest coverage had fallen to about 47 percent. By 2002 it had fallen again to 42 percent, and then to 40 percent in 2010.
Previous reports from the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry have blamed slash and burn cultivation as a major cause of deforestation in Laos but it is widely known that illegal logging is among the primary causes of declining forest resources. Illegal logging continues unabated in Laos, including in watersheds and protected areas.