Land and forest battle in Central Highlands as forests devastated

Created 30 March 2018
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VietNamNet Bridge - As illegal loggers are ‘protected’ by local officials, it will be difficult to stop deforestation in the Central Highlands unless heavy sanctions are applied.

 

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The red grass hill in Gia Lai province

 

 

At the end of the rainy season in the Central Highlands, a group of reporters followed a muddy road to reach Dak Ngo commune of Tuy Duc district, known as the ‘hotspot’ of deforestation in Dak Nong province.

When the reporters stopped the car and took photos, some locals said: "You should go further to the commune to take photos. The situation there is more brutal. But illegal loggers are ‘protected’. No one can stop the deforestation here.”

As illegal loggers are ‘protected’ by local officials, it will be difficult to stop deforestation in the Central Highlands unless heavy sanctions are applied.

In Dak Ngo commune, they saw were ravaged forests and burned trees on the ground and bare land. The head offices of afforestation companies were temporarily built wooden tin-roofed houses, looking like people’s tents. There were cassava and maize fields, tilled by locals, while the forests had disappeared.

Only withered pine trees were seen on Highway No 28 to Quang Son commune. Nguyen Vu Company, owned by Nguyen Thi Kim Thoa, leased 162 hectares of forestland, including 156 hectares of pine forests, along the highway some years ago, to implement the project on managing and protecting forests, and growing avocado trees.

Thoa is the wife of Luong Ngoc Lep, who was deputy director of the Dak Nong Police until 2017.

In February 2016, when inter-ministerial inspectors came to the site, they discovered that 14 hectares of land in the project’s area had been appropriated, about 60 percent of pine forests had died, and 11 houses had been illegally built.

Reporters discovered that Phan Thanh Nghia, authorized by Thoa, on behalf of Nguyen Vu Company, sold eight land plots with the total area of 6.4 hectares and earned the VND2.3 billion.

Nghia once set up a private enterprise Quoc Trieu, specializing in forestry product trading and processing. The company was caught buying 50 cubic meters of illegally logged wood. 

He was not prosecuted for the behavior and was forced to stop trading forestry products in 2016.

In 2017, nearly 30 forest rangers in Dak Nong province were disciplined. They were either reprimanded, dismissed or prosecuted.

A report showed that in the last 10 years, 80,000 hectares of forestland were cleared to make room for 50 hydropower plants. 

Hundreds of thousands of hectares of forests have been allocated to enterprises to develop projects on rubber plantation, husbandry and afforestation. Most of the projects failed.

Most recently, locals were stunned by the news that 4,000 pine trees and the original red grass hills in Gia Lai would be cleared to make room for golf course projects.

 

Source: VietNamNet Bridge

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