Vietnam to restrict lease of forest land to foreign investors

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The government has ordered the Ministry of Defense and concerned agencies to review foreign-invested forestry projects and reduce the size of those in areas deemed important for national security.

According to a government report released at a National Assembly meeting on Saturday, the government is effecting changes to an investment regulation that will tighten control over the leasing of forest land to foreign investors.

In the meantime, provincial administrations are not allowed to grant licenses for new forestry projects to foreign investors, the report said.

Vietnam approved the first foreign-invested forestation projects in 1995. As of August 10, there were eight such projects with a total investment of US$286.09 million. Hong Kong-based InnovGreen has invested in five of them.

Most of the projects involve planting trees that are later harvested to make wood products.

The government report said the eight projects are expected to occupy 288,874 hectares of forest land, with 18,571 hectares already approved for exploitation. The projects have contributed VND24.65 billion to the government budget so far, the report said.

Legislators have raised concerns over the practice of renting out forest land to foreign investors as they fear that it could jeopardize both national security and harm the environment.

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