Vietnam forest protection project under threat

TN News

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A Vietnamese forest protection scheme that requires water supply and hydropower plants to pay local communities that protect forests is in trouble since the former are not paying up.

The communities, who are handed over forests to protect and can make use of certain resources, said they have worked hard to stop deforestation, thus helping prevent water running off, benefiting power supply and water plants, but the latter do not pay.

They are expected to pay VND40 for each cubic meter of water they supply and VND20 for each kilowatt-hour of power they generate.

The project was started in 2009 in Son La Province in the north and Lam Dong in the Central Highlands, and expanded nationwide last year.

But the money has not been paid for 2010 and 2011, and only 60 percent has been paid for 2009.

Pham Hong Luong, deputy director of the Vietnam Forest Development and Protection Fund, said the biggest debtor is the state-owned monopoly Electricity of Vietnam (EVN), which owes nearly VND550 billion (US$26.4 million).

Lam Thai Hung, director of the Son La Forest Development and  Protection Fund, said the Suoi Sap hydropower plant owed VND2.2 billion ($105,700) from 2009.

Luong explained that it is not actually the investors but the consumers who are paying the fees since they are added to the tariffs.

The fees are paid into a provincial fund and then distributed to the communities.

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Each local gets VND126,000 ($6) per hectare per year.

"The money is not much but everyone is happy," Quan Van An, a Son La resident, said.

The money is also used to build communal cultural houses and plant more trees in the forest, he said.

Luong said defaulters should be severely punished.

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