Vietnamese restore forests

Ulhas Joglekar ulhasj at
Sun Nov 14 03:56:50 MST 1999

> Business Standard The Vietnamese government has launched a
> systematic effort to restore forest, writes Barun Roy
> Friday, Oct 29, 1999
> The reds turn green in Vietnam
> The government is racing against time to check deforestation, writes Barun
> Roy
> Viet Nam, one of Asia's least-forested countries, if not the
> is racing against time to stop the decline of its forests and restore its
> tree cover. And the task is not easy.
> The country is losing its forest cover at the rate of 110,000 to 200,000
> every year from such factors as high population growth (above 2 per cent
> year), high population density (235 per sq. km.), excessive reliance on
> forest resources, and harnessing new areas to raise export crops,
> coffee and rubber. Some say no more than 10 per cent of the country is
> forested, against 43 per cent back in 1943.
> There is, of course, a historical perspective to Viet Nam's denudation.
> country was engaged in a ruinous liberation war between 1945 and 1975, and
> the indiscriminate use of napalm bombs and defoliants in the later stages
> the war decimated its forests in a ruthless enemy rampage. This historical
> tragedy has now combined with current socio-economic factors to create a
> challenge that's truly formidable. The uplands are losing their soil
> irrigation systems are silting up, and floods have become as severe as
> droughts.
> A systematic effort to restore forest cover began only in late 1992, when
> the government launched what is known as the Decree 327 program. It
> local populations cash incentives to replant and protect forests. State
> forest enterprises, whose only concern until then was to log large tracts
> natural forests in the interest of immediate gains, were paid a fee to
> reforest. All natural forests were closed to commercial logging and
> spontaneous migrations into forest areas were forbidden.
> Although this program helped reforest and protect some 150,000 ha every
> year, it still lacked the degree of community involvement that only could
> make it succeed. In August 1998, the government launched a national
> afforestation programme to cover 5 million ha by the year 2010.
> The target is to create 2 million ha of production forest, 2 million ha of
> protection and special-use forests, and 1 million ha of fast-yielding
> perennial agricultural. Individual units and households are being signed
> with greater vigour to replant and protect reforested areas. They are
> financial help to lessen their dependence on forests and natural reserves.
> In some remote mountain areas, villagers have been known to take
> oaths to fight illegal loggers.
> Of Viet Nam's 33 million ha of land, 11 million ha are classified as
> The national programme's 5 million ha target will mean a substantial
> restoration of the country's forest cover. Government sources say 330,000
> were replanted in the first nine months of 1999, which shows the programme
> is pretty much on track.
> But the government isn't taking any chances. It is now considering
> the organised private sector in the programme as well and is expected to
> come out with a specific incentive scheme by May 2000. At the same time,
> Asian Development Bank is helping out in restructuring forest-related
> institutions and improving forest management systems. The entire gamut of
> government policies, strategies, and practices concerning afforestation,
> forest protection, land allocation, and land-use planning is being
> The government's concern becomes all the more urgent from the country's
> equally acute problem of unused land. As much as 12 million ha of the
> country's total land area is classified as unused. These are either
> forests that have lost their fertility from the use of chemical defoliants
> during the war or are areas that are abandoned after a few years of
> excessive cropping. Thus a rapid leaching of the topsoil occurs and the
> becomes literally barren.
> Because of the growing pressure of population and the increasing needs of
> the economy, the government must do something to regenerate these lands
> bring them back into production. This requires major attention from
> international experts and funding agencies, and calls for innovative
> projects involving the private sector.

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