Laos Launches Plan to Stem Illegal Logging After Revenue Drop

2014-07-28
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A logging site inside a forest in Laos' Bolikhamsai Province, in a file photo.
AFP

Lao authorities have launched a pilot program to track the source of timber from sawmills and wood-processing plants after Lao Prime Minister Thongsing Thammavong disclosed that illegal logging has become a major problem for the country, reports say.

The pilot program requires all logs in sawmills and wood-processing plants to be inspected before export and to lay a framework for documentation that they are derived from legal sources, according to the reports.

The program has been introduced in Laos’ western Savannakhet and southern Saravan provinces, according to government officials quoted by the state-owned Vientiane Times.

Prime Minister Thongsing Thammavong told the country’s parliament earlier this month that the government has been unable to stop slash-and-burn cultivation and illegal logging despite having numerous laws and policies.

Under intense questioning from lawmakers in the National Assembly, he disclosed that the main reason for illegal logging was the large potential financial profit.

Most of the illegal timber was exported to China, the top investor in landlocked Laos.

“Illegal logging continues in Laos because the price of wood is very high in the market,” and so, “many logging companies hire villagers to illegally log,” he said.

He went on to emphasize the importance of cooperation between local authorities and villagers as a method to help contain illegal logging.

“In order to stop illegal logging, all local authorities and villagers have to cooperate; if there is no cooperation, we can’t stop [illegal logging],” he said.

The government legally allows timber to be extracted in only four areas—areas where mining, roads, and electrical transmission line projects will be undertaken, as well as in water catchment areas slated for hydropower construction which may be inundated, according to the Vientiane Times.

However, insufficient enforcement and loopholes make for easy exploitation by illegal loggers, the report said.

According to police reports, illegal logging cases topped the list of “economic-related cases” in 2013, with 257 cases reported out of a total of 559.

Much of the illegal logs are destined for neighboring countries, such as China, where demand for rare and expensive timber such as Hongmu (redwood) is strong.

The lucrative Hongmu trade has surged in demand over the past decade, according to London-based green group the Environmental Investigation Agency [EIA].

The Mekong region, of which Laos is part, accounts for nearly half of China’s imports of Hongmu, valued at nearly U.S. $2.4 billion, since 2000.

Financial loss

Laos is concerned over the financial loss resulting from illegal logging due to eroding revenue from tax collection, which fell this year and missed the government target.

Lao Finance Minister Lien Thikeo informed the National Assembly that during the first six months of this year, the government was only able to collect 36.5 percent of projected tax revenue, forcing the authorities to lower the national budget.

“Revenue was down; for example, revenue from mining. We planned to collect at least 1.8 billion kip [U.S. $223.6 million], but we were able to collect only 1.1 billion kip [U.S $136.7 million],” he explained.

Over time, widespread deforestation has decimated the forest cover in Laos, declining from 71.6 percent of the total land mass in the 1960s, to 47 percent by 1992, and then down to 41.5 percent by 2002, according to the Vientiane Times.

Total forest cover currently stands at 40.3 percent and Lao authorities plan to increase it to 65 percent by 2015 and 70 percent by 2020.

An initiative to manage, protect, and conserve forests was also presented in the recent session of the National Assembly by the government, according to the Vientiane Times.

Reported by RFA’s Lao Service. Translated by Max Lavery. Written in English by Di Hoa Le.

Comments (4)
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too late

from Vientiane

If they want to make this Illegal Logging Thay should make this law long time agao when they still have Trees.
Now they have no trees Left to cut and they make this Illegal JUST TO MAKE THEM A HERO NOW TO PTOTECT THE ROOTS OF THE TREES NOW.
Nice Job
Applause

Aug 10, 2014 03:29 AM

LAONOR

THESE WOOD BELONG TO LENGSAVATH AND MANY GENERAL LAODENG

Jul 30, 2014 12:04 PM

Anonymous Reader

"Most of the illegal timber was exported to China, the top investor in landlocked Laos."
Who else and where else? Xhit Cheatpig was newly in Laos and "offered" some million US Dollar to build the "Infrastructure" in Laos (roads and bridges) so that the lumbers can be transported straight and undamaged to China.

Jul 30, 2014 10:08 AM

Concerned citzens of Laos

World, look! Since 1975 until the present, Laos makes every effort to censor all activities that government officials are involved. Information like this would never had been made known to the outside world. Even if the world knows, Laos will deny--do not know, not true, bad people want to harass Laos, etc..., and now, Laos seems to wake up bit by bit that lying and censoring information don't work. That is why something like this begin to emerge, but the damages had been done. And worse than anything else, poverty continues to impact ordinary citizens to the point that the poor have to be hungry.

Jul 29, 2014 02:14 PM

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