New road now path to forest destruction
HCM CITY — A road completed four years ago has lured farmers who have cleared hundreds of hectares of evergreen forest in the Central Highlands province of Lam Dong's Lac Duong District.
The road provides a shortcut between the coastal city of Nha Trang to the Highlands city of Da Lat, facilitating a shuttle between these two popular tourist destinations.
However, part of the road runs across pine forests at the source of Da Nhim River, which has increased the demand for land on both sides of the road.
"The district has favorable climate and land conditions, so farmers tend to clear the forest to cultivate crops," said Pham Trieu, deputy chairman of People's Committee of Lac Duong District.
"Farming needs have pushed up prices of land along the road, and deforestation has escalated as a result," he added.
Fertile land in the district has also attracted farmers from Da Lat City, who came to procure plots of cleared land to grow vegetables.
According to district officials, more than 1,100 incidents of deforestation have been reported in the last six years, involving an area of 165 ha.
Law enforcement officials have discovered the individual participants in the deforestation incidents in only 78 of the cases.
Sights of pine forest with some parts missing here and there and trees felled down on the sides of the road can be easily seen just dozens of kilometres to the north of Da Lat in the district's Da Sar and Da Nhim communes.
Some of the felled pine trees are dozens of years old and measure more than 50 cm in diametre.
Beds of lush vegetables are now grown where pine forests once stood.
Several ha of pine forests were lost after they were allocated to private businesses to carry out tourism, agriculture, forestry or fishing projects, all of which wanted to capitalise on the benefits of the new road.
In the last four years, Lam Dong Province has licensed projects for more than 60 businesses, involving an area of more than 9,000 hectares of forest.
However, many of the businesses have failed to keep their commitments to protect the forest.
Their lax management combined with delays in carrying out their projects has led to infringement on tracts of pine forests with which they were entrusted.
An inspection by district officials in April found that more than 36ha and 160 cubic metres of wood have been lost to farmers hungry for land in areas managed by 19 projects.
On the hectares allocated to Thanh Van Company to develop high-tech agriculture, more than 400 pine trees were felled in just one year, Sai Gon Giai Phong (Liberated Sai Gon) reports.
In addition, Duy Ha Company, which rented more than 50ha of forest in Da Sar Commune for agricultural purposes, illegally zoned some pieces of land to sell to local farmers.
Deforestation has also taken places in areas managed by other companies, including Thanh Phong, Chia Khoa Vang, Thanh Nam and Tai Tin.
Deforestation and infringement on land mostly occurs with delayed projects, according to the district's deputy chairman Pham Trieu.
The district recently asked the provincial People's Committee to revoke land allocated to three companies because of their delays in carrying out registered projects.
The companies have also been asked to pay VND1.8 billion ($88,000) in compensation for lost forests. — VNS