Working towards greater community control over land, forests and natural resources

Forest cover goal possible if managed properly

Vientiane Times, 22 July 2014

The goal of increasing forest cover to 70 percent of the country by 2020 will be possible if action is taken to manage and protect forests. Director General of the Department of Forestry under the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Mr Thongphath Vongmany, said last week that if proper action was taken to manage the forests and the damaged forests were recovered, then Laos would be able to surpass their target of 70 percent.

The Lao government has set a goal to increase the country’s forest coverage to 65 percent by 2015 and 70 percent by 2020. A survey conducted in 2010 showed that dense forest covered 40.3 percent of the country, with another 37 percent being covered by damaged forests. If no further damage is made to these forests, then the 37 percent can be recovered within three to four years.

Mr Thongphath said, “Our future focus is to recover six million hectares of damaged forests and if we are able to do so then we will achieve our target.” The 70 percent forest cover wi ll involve approximately 16.5 million hectares of land, with natural forests covering 16 million hectares and 500,000 hectares made up by industrial tree plantations such as rubber, eucalyptus and other trees planted for logging and trading purposes.

The government presented the initiative to manage, protect and conserve forests to the ongoing ordinary session of the National Assembly (NA) last week in order to seek approval from the parliament. The initiative categorises the forests into three types: protected forest, conservation forest and production forest.

Minister of Natural Resources and Enviroment Mr Nourin Sinbandhit told the NA that his ministry would work closely with the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry to carry out activities to manage, protect and conserve the forests. Officials are set to continue promoting the planting of trees and earmarking forest areas with signage.

Mr Nourin said officials would also carry out surveys to co llect information and draw up a plan to manage each category of forest type, as well as allocate community forest areas to enable local people to participate in forest management and to learn how to use a forest i n a sustainable manner.

According to statistics from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, Laos used to be known for its large forest cover but this has declined in recent years. In the 1960s, the forest cover in Laos reached 71.6 percent (17 million hectares) of the total land mass in the country. By 1992, this had declined to 47 percent (11.1 million hectares) of the total land mass and decreased further to 41.5 percent (9.7 million hectares) by 2002. By 2010, the forest cover was 40.34 percent (9.5 million hectares).

The latest survey showed that there are 49 protected forests with a combined area of 7.4 million hectares. There are 24 national conservation forests of 4.7 million hectares, with 51 production forests on a combined area of approximately 3.1 million hectares.

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