Vientiane Times, 2 June 2014
Hundreds of people joined in planting trees to conserve forest in Vientiane’s Sangthong district, which covers part of the Phouphanang National Protected Area. District Governor Mr B ounthieng Khounsy led officials from Vientiane’s Department of Agriculture and Forestry, Department of Natural Resources and Environment, local police, military forces, local residents and students in planting around 2,000 native saplings on around two hectares of land on Lanmanh Hill near Samphanna village.
“We have planted several species of valuable wood such as Mai Dou (Pterocarpus macrocarpus) and Mai Taekha (Afzelia xylocarpa) to return the abundance of native species to the forest,” Mr Bounthieng told Vientiane Times yesterday. Mr Bounthieng said La nmanh Hill, where the arbour campaign activity took place yesterday morning, was a forest area that had been encroached by some local people.
Sangthong is one of the five districts in Vientiane province covered by parts of the Phouphanang National Protected Area. According to Mr Bounthieng, Phanang Mountain protected area makes up 10 to 15 percent of the total 75,000 hectares of his district.
Despite the Phouphanang National Protected Area in Sangthong district being in relatively good condition according to the district governor, the protected area is under serious threat as it was recently reported that a combined 39,000 hectares of Phouphanang and its conjunct Phoukhaokhuay (Khaokhuay Mountain) National Protected Area had been encroached upon.
The encroachment includes illegal logging and local authorities allowing industrial trees to be planted in the area. Forests throughout the country are under threat with illegal logging and illegal timber transportation frequently reported. The recent inspection meeting in Xayaboury province reported that local authorities obtained around 3,000 cubic metres of illegal timber in the 2012-13 fiscal year.
Illegal loggers have also been entering privately-owned lands and planting trees to retrieve the stems and roots of precious trees. The thieves also take valuable wood from fence posts, rice paddy huts and wherever else they can find it.
The government is facing major challenges in achieving their goal of 65 percent forest cover by 2015 and 70 percent by 2020. Another recent news report mentioned that the national tree planting campaign has proved almost fruitless for the purpose of restoration as a very small number of the saplings planted actually grow.
The Minister of Agriculture and Forestry Mr Vilayvanh Phomkhe told the media during a joint government meeting with provincial governors in April that it will be difficult to restore forests through planting campaigns if forest encroachments have not yet been prevented.