Vientiane Times, 21st May 2015
Laos will have more new tree planting this year, well in excess of the target set in the government’s plan. The government had planned to encourage people around the country, including government offices and business operators, to plant 30,000 hectares of new trees but the Department of Forestry Deputy Director General, Mr Boualy Phameuang, said he was confident that this figure would be surpassed as society generally has become more aware of the need for greater forest cover.
The government had set a target to increase the amount of forest coverage to 65 percent of the country’s total land area by this year but to date only just over 50 percent cover had been achieved. Arbour Day and National Tree-Planting Day on June 1 are expected to raise the awareness of people, especially children, of the importance of trees and the value to the country of its forests. But infrastructure development, land concessions and agricultural land expansion are still major obstacles to expanding forest coverage. In order to increase green areas in the country and expand overall forest cover, it is necessary to have the close cooperation and assistance of every relevant sector both government and private. The government, especially the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, will also have to encourage people in society to plant traditional trees in many different areas such as at their offices or along the roads and within the three types of forest, production, conservation and prevention for effective reafforestation.
The government had aimed to increase forest cover to 65 percent by 2015 and 70 percent by 2020, of which 500,000 hectares would be commercial tree plantations. So far almost 500,000 hectares of land have been planted, said Mr Boualy. The government recently suspended new land concessions for industrial tree plantations, in particular rubber and eucalyptus, as some companies have broken the rules by clearing protected areas, which caused the destruction of some forestry resources of the country. Although Laos plants 30,000 hectares of trees each year, almost 20-30 percent of the seedlings die due to poor maintenance and climate change.
“As Laos has good soil, increasing forest cover and green areas is not so difficult. They can turn green within three to five years if we protect and maintain them,” he commented. The government is also seeking more funding for forest expansion. Each year the value of exported wood in Laos reaches billions of dollars but only a little of this goes to the government budget.