06/20/2015, 00.00
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Government plans to increase reforestation just propaganda, Laotian environmentalist say

Laotian authorities plan to increase forested land to 70 per cent coverage. However, for the country’s Environmental Investigation Agency, it is an attempt to save face after a report points to widespread illegal logging involving Laotian officials and a Vietnamese military company.

Vientiane (AsiaNews) - A plan by Lao authorities to increase the amount of forested land is only an attempt by the government to try to save face following a report that government officials and a Vietnamese company have been involved in pervasive illegal logging, a forestry official said.

The country’s Environmental Investigation Agency said the plan to plant saplings on 30,000 hectares is aimed at increasing the amount of forested land to 70 per cent coverage by 2020.

It also found that some national leaders and a Vietnamese military company are involved in the illegal logging as reported by villagers in the area where the expert works, this according to Radio Free Asia (RFA).

Based on the forest criteria of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations, the country’s forests currently cover 68 percent of its land.

“Seventy per cent is too challenging for the government to achieve considering the concessions [it has granted] for hydropower dams (like the Xayabury dam), mines and electrical networks,” said the forest expert. “The government will use the concessions to cover up the logging. In some case, the logging is taking place in conserved forest.”

Large lorries (pictured) loading logs for export to Vietnam have become symbols of deforestation in Laos. The problem has reached such levels that the country can no longer meet its own needs. Instead of exports, it could use the timber to build and repair its own schools and other public buildings.

Laotian forest law defines three kinds of forests – conserved, producing and protected forests –and only authorises logging in producing forests.

However, some decrees on conserved forests allow for the use of national and provincial conserved forests or some areas of them for state-interest purposes. Thus, “In practice, the conserved forest has been used for logging,” RFA reported.

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