Outraged residents of Vietnam's southernmost province of Ca Mau are accusing forest rangers of helping illegal loggers plunder a protected mangrove forest.
“It’s very hard for us poor people to enter the forests to catch snails and crabs, but loggers chop down trees every day as if there's no one around to stop them.”
“Given the scope of the destruction, the loggers must be enjoying some official protection,” L. said.
D., another concerned resident, led a Thanh Nien reporter to Vam Lung beach to show how “forests have been severely destroyed 200 meters inland.”
Many mature mangrove forests have been reduced to stumps.
D. estimated that loggers made off with hundreds of cubic meters of wood in recent years.
Locals said younger forests only get selectively poached, while older forests are clear cut.
During the visit, a Thanh Nien reporter spotted a few stumps still wet with resin.
Angry residents have filed a petition with the provincial government, accusing officials at Kien Vang Protective Forest Management Board of assisting the loggers.
Nguyen Van Quan, a spokesman of the province People’s Committee, told Thanh Nien on Monday that the agriculture department is reviewing the allegations.
By the department's count, more than six square kilometers of mangrove forest have been chopped down in the past couple years.
Pham The Tai, the department's chief inspector, said he knows most of the allegations to be true.
“Forests being destroyed is a true story, and the forest managers are responsible. But we need to clarify whether or not they deliberately assisted in that destruction.”
Figures from the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development released in December 2011 estimated that Vietnam loses nearly 32,000 hectares of forest every year and illegal logging is responsible for six percent of that loss.