Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc has ordered a total ban on clearing natural forests to protect the 2.25 million hectares still surviving nationwide.
“From now on localities are not allowed to issue logging permits,” he said at a meeting in Dak Lak Province on Monday.
The measure is aimed at preventing abuse of a policy that allows companies to clear poor forest areas to plant commercial trees, he said.
“The Central Highlands’ forests have seriously declined threatening unpredictable impacts.”
According a report the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development released at the meeting, in 2010-14 alone 110,000 hectares were cleared for commercial trees, 37,000 hectares for building hydropower plants and roads and 123,000 illegally.
Companies have been hired to manage a majority of the forests in the region, but deforestation persists.
“It is common for forests to be cleared and occupied though they were granted [to companies and residents for management],” the Prime Minister said, blaming corruption and collusion with violators by forest management agencies.
He ordered the shutting down of timber processing factories and a ban on timber exports.
“We have banned the export of unprocessed logs but still allow timber export: that’s a loophole.”
He ordered relevant agencies not to allow anybody to clear any of the 2.25 million hectares of natural forests.
Central Highlands provinces should not license hydropower projects in forests, he said.
The government has set a target of afforesting until forests cover nearly half the Central Highlands.