Efforts to reforest land-cleared areas of Laos have stalled in recent months, with many provinces falling short of their targeted goals, sources in the Southeast Asian country say.
In northwestern Laos’s Oudomxay province, trees have so far been planted on only one quarter of the 8,000-hectare target set by the central government, official sources told RFA’s Lao Service.
Meanwhile, in Luang Namtha province in the northern part of the country, a reforestation project has still not even launched, sources said.
“The Forest Department set a goal of 8,000 hectares this year for Oudomxay,” a local official of Laos’s Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry told RFA. “But we have been able to accomplish only a quarter of this.”
“Our team has fewer than 30 people, and they can’t do it all,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“Also, we don’t have enough grass seed.”
“If we had some money, we could hire villagers to help plant trees,” he said.
In Luang Namtha, forestry teams are still searching for land on which to launch their program, a local official told RFA, adding, “Also, we have no funding.”
Foreign aid may now be needed to jump-start the work, the official said.
Government leaders now hope to increase forest cover in Laos from 42 percent to 65 percent of the country by 2020. But while specific targets have been set for the country’s provinces, little funding has been provided, official sources say.
Targets are also being missed because many Lao forests, including forests in protected zones, are still being destroyed in illegal logging operations and by slash-and-burn cultivation, one ministry official told RFA.
Deforestation has been a major problem in the last two decades for Laos, with timber often obtained through conversion forestry—clearing areas marked for the development of infrastructure projects such as hydropower dams, road building, and mining operations.
These are then used as an excuse for large-scale logging that would not otherwise be permitted under Lao law.
Reported by RFA’s Lao Service. Translated by Max Avary. Written in English by Richard Finney.