Vietnam plans to close natural forests to protect them

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Vietnam is considering shutting down it natural parks to stop rampant illegal logging by businesses, Deputy Prime Minister Hoang Trung Hai said at a Hanoi meeting Tuesday.

Hai said "loose management" had allowed a lot of forestry firms to be established, and they have logged one million cubic meters of timber a year on average for many years now.

Controls have been tightened since 2000 to reduce the logging to between 200,000 and 300,000 cubic meters a year, and around 110,000 cubic meters this year so far, Hai said.

Reports tabled at the meeting listed 2,735 illegal logging cases this year, and nearly 11,000 cases involving trafficking of illegal timber.

Hai asked the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development to make plans for better control, prioritizing the shutting down all forests in the country.

Vietnam has just 10.3 million hectares of natural forests with an estimated 862 million cubic meters of timber. But only five percent of these are considered "rich," with more than 250 cubic meters of wood per hectare, the meeting heard.

The closure of forests needs to be followed up with measures to encourage the planting of trees as well as scientific research to aid forest recovery.

Officials said budget disbursement for planting trees has been very slow.

Hai said such reluctant investment needs to be stopped, and the importance of forest protection should no longer be "underestimated."

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He said hydropower projects will be asked to plant trees on an area equal to the land that they have taken. If local authorities have not allocated the land for reforestation, the investor can pay them the money for it first, he added.

New projects will only be approved if the investors submit specific reforestation plans, Hai said.

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