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

Villagers occupy forest area illegally

Vientiane Times, 24 July 2014

More than 20 hectares of forest area along a newly-constructed road that links Vangvieng to Meuangfeuang districts in Vientiane province have been occupied by villagers – an action that contravenes regulations, a senior government official has said. Some 49 families of Phonxay and Naxay villages have cleared forest in Naxay village along the new road to resettle themselves, said Deputy Director General of the Forest Inspection Department, Mr Paphakon Vongxay.

Mr Paphakon was responding to an inquiry raised by a teacher from Vangvieng district through the hotline of the ongoing ordinary session of the National Assembly (NA). The teacher expressed concern over logging in the area, asking relevant authorities to investigate and address the issue.

Mr Paphakon said the occupation contravenes relevant regulations. But he added that Vangvieng district authorities have investigated the issue and educated the villagers to stop their wrongdoing. In the 2013-2014 fiscal year, the government approved a project for the building of the 40.5km road linking Napae village in Vangvieng district to Nabon village in Meuangfeuang district.

The deputy director general said the villagers cleared the forest for resettlement and cultivation purposes. “The villagers have formed the opinion that if they are cultivating the cleared forest area, the land will eventually come under their ownership,” he said, adding that this is the main reason that the forest area has been encroached into. He stated that turning forest area into residential or community areas must be approved by the government.

In order to ensure sustainable management of forest areas, especially forests in local communities, the government plans to carry out a fact finding survey to collect information towards drawing up a plan for forest management. The management plan includes allocating community forest areas to enable local people to participate in forest management and its use in a sustainable manner, according to the government’s plan presented to the NA’s ongoing ordinary session.

To ease its forest management effort, Minister of National Resources and the Environment, Mr Nourin Sinbandith told the parliament that the government has categorised forests into three types – protected forest, conservation forest and production forest. He stated that a forest management plan will be drawn up for each of the three forest types.

Protected forests are forests and forestry lands which are located in areas of water resources, watershed areas, wetland forests, river bank forests, road side forests, forests in municipalities or the outskirts of a city and sacred forests of villages. These have been determined for the purpose of protection of watershed areas and to reduce soil erosion and natural disasters and for national and public security.

Conservation forests are forests and forestry lands conserved for protecting nature, plant species, animals, ecology and other natural assets. Production forests comprise both natural forests and industrial tree plantation areas allocated for timber trading purposes.

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