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Plans revealed for increasing forest cover to 70 percent

Authorities plan to encourage all sectors to plant trees on 20,000 hectares across the country this year as part of the government’s goal to increase forest cover to 70 percent of the country’s terrain by 2020.
The trees will be planted by the state and private sectors as well as individuals, Director General of the Forestry Department, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Mr Sousath Xayakoummane said.
A satellite survey showed that forest cover stood at 58 percent in 2015, Mr Sousath told a national meeting of the agriculture, forestry and rural development sector last week.
To achieve the 70 percent target, it will be necessary to plant trees on 500,000 hectares and properly manage 6 million hectares of degraded forest so they can undergo natural rehabilitation.
“Planting trees and rehabilitating poor forests has been the most important measure as we pursue the 70 percent cover goal by 2020,” Mr Sousath told the meeting.
The meeting, chaired by Minister of Agriculture and Forestry Dr Lien Thikeo, brought together representatives from the ministry and provinces across the country. 
Last year, trees were planted on 8,220 hectares by various sectors, representing just 41 percent of the year’s target.
Mr Sousath told Vientiane Times that failure to meet the tree planting target was due to the fact that the government didn’t have sufficient funds to plant more trees.
Meanwhile, the ban on new rubber and eucalyptus plantations, which has been in effect since 2012, has slowed tree planting.
In a bid to encourage more tree planting by the private sector, the government is considering lifting the ban on eucalyptus plantations by revising Prime Ministerial Order No. 13, which imposed the ban.
“But new rubber plantations will continue to be banned,” Mr Sousath said, citing a draft amendment to the Prime Ministerial Order.
“The draft was tabled at a government monthly meeting and the cabinet agreed in principle.”
The planned lifting of the ban on eucalyptus plantations comes after a pilot project in Ta-Oy district, Saravan province, proved to be successful, he said.
Under the pilot project, a private company hired local villagers to plant and tend to eucalyptus trees and encouraged them to grow rice on the same land.
“The villagers were paid for taking care of the trees and were able to harvest rice at the same time. The rice grew well because it benefited from the fertiliser used for the trees,” Mr Sousath said.
Out of 200 or so companies that operate plantations, six or seven follow best practices, and these companies should be encouraged to expand their plantations, he added.
Trees recommended for commercial plantations include early-harvesting species like eucalyptus, teak, and kathinnalong, as well as traditional hardwood species.
“In some production forests [forests where commercial logging is permitted], forests cannot rehabilitate naturally so we should encourage the private sector to plant more trees,” Mr Sousath said.
Last year, 243,993 hectares of degraded forest were restored. More forests are earmarked for rehabilitation this year to further increase forest cover.

By Souksakhone Vaenkeo
(Latest Update
March 12,
2018)


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