Large protective forest area destroyed in Central Highlands

Taking advantage of a Government policy permitting use of degraded forest land to plant rubber trees in the Central Highlands, several businesses have flocked to Dak Lak Province to take over parts of a protective forest.

A devastated area of Krong Nang protective forest in Ea Puk Commune of Krong Nang District in Dak Lak Province (Photo: SGGP)

Only a small part of the forest area has been used for a rubber plantation, the remaining is being illegally exploited for tens of billions of dong.

The 10,000 hectare Krong Nang protective forest area in Krong Nang District is vital as a buffer against land erosion and flash floods, not only for Dak Lak, but also Phu Yen and Khanh Hoa Provinces.

However, hundreds of hectares of primeval forest have been chopped down after the People’s Committee of Dak Lak Province permitted a business to survey the area for a rubber plantation.

Sections 332, 340 and 342 of the Krong Nang protective forest are primeval with many valuable trees and the Thuy Tien Waterfall landscape which has been recognised as a national relic site.

However, Le Nhat Vinh, deputy director of the forest management board still proposed to the provincial authorities to hand over 460 hectares to the Loc Phat Company to plant rubber trees in February 2008.

According to the proposal, 680 hectares of the above sections were poor degraded forest land, of which 360 hectares were suitable for a rubber plantation.

To de-regularise the forest land, representatives from Dak Lak Province Forest Management Department, Krong Nang District Forest Management Division, the management board of the Krong Nang protective forest and the Loc Phat Company set up a primary survey on the status quo of the forest area in January 2009, releasing the 360 hectares for a rubber plantation.
 
However, no one knows if the above representatives did the survey, as it takes several days of trekking to cover the area.

The district People’s Committee and the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development then placed the survey report for approval to the provincial administration.

The province People’s Committee in December 2009 officially permitted the company to implement the project.

The company then used bulldozers to flatten nearly 10 hectares of the forest in Ea Dah Commune to build necessary facilities including a plant nursery.

This raised dissatisfaction among local residents. As a result, over 1,000 people came in to ravage the forest and deforest over 200 hectares, of which 10 hectares belonged to the Thuy Tien Waterfall area.

Cao Huu Loi, secretary of the Ea Puk Commune Party Committee said that the commune is impotent and cannot prevent residents from destroying primeval forest to make room for cultivation.

The commune has over 1,000 hectares belonging to the Krong Nang protective forest. Since Loc Phat Company implemented the rubber plantation project, local residents followed and chopped down nearly140 hectares of primeval forest.

By Hoai Nam – Translated by Hai Mien

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