If investors are found encroaching on national conservation forest areas or national protection forest areas they will be ordered to cease all activities immediately, according to agriculture and forestry officials. Forest authorities will call the encroachers to their offices and educate them. In cases where they still fail to discontinue their activities after being informed by the authorities, the invaders who are breaking the regulations will be prosecuted under the country’s laws. Director of the Agriculture and Forestry Department in Vientiane province Mr Sethxay Vilayphay told Vientiane Times on Thursday that some investors and local people have planted trees on a few parcels of land within a conservation forest area. “Hinheup district is one of the places in the province where conservation forest is found to be being encroached upon,” he mentioned.
According to reports by provincial authorities earlier this month, some eucalyptus tree plantations in Hinheup district planted by Boualapha Agriculture and Forestry Company may in fact be encroaching on conservation forest. Deputy Governor of Vientiane province Ms Singkham Khongsavanh said recently that she hasn’t yet received any documents from the provincial authorities reporting on the company. The survey of eucalyptus tree plantations in the area is not yet finished because forest officials and the company are concentrating works on an area of state owned land which is being utilised by local people in the villages.
The state provides the land for villagers to utilise to sustain their living conditions but they are not permitted to cut the trees or sell the land. If the parcels of land are owned by local people, the company can buy it for their tree plantation, Mr Sethxay explained. In addition, investors and local people are prohibited to encroach onto conservation forest but sometimes they want to plant industrial trees when they see some parts of the forest are already degraded. Mr Sethxay said it’s impossible to allow industrial tree plantations in conservation forest areas because when the government has enough money the degraded forest will be rehabilitated. “However we will not destroy the trees when we find investors or local people planting them in conservation forest areas. We will leave them in the conservation forest and these trees will be transferred to ownership by the state,” he added.
There are two national conservation forest areas in Vientiane province, those being Phoukhaokhuay and Phouphanang, and one protection forest, namely Pangotnam. The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry recently announced that the government plans to increase national forest coverage to 65 percent by 2015 and 70 percent by 2020. The ministry said widespread deforestation in Laos had reduced coverage to 64 percent in 1960, 47.2 percent in 1992 and 41.5 percent in 2002. At present, there are 49 National Protection Forests covering 7.5 million hectares but the ministry plans to add thousands more to achieve its goal of 8.2 million hectares of protected forest by 2015.