Vietnam's Central Highlands has lost nearly 14 percent of its forest area since 2008, with some local officials found to have been involved in illegal deforestation, a report said.
A total of 358,797 hectares (886,606 acres) of forest have been destroyed over the past seven years, according to the report by the Central Highlands Steering Committee, an advisory agency for the Party.
Tran Duc Thanh, deputy director of the Economic Department under the committee, said the regional forests have not only been declining in area but also in quality.
The region now has 2.25 million hectares of forest, of which 45 percent are in poor health.
Thanh cited many reasons, including timber poaching and illegal deforestation for farming.
“In many localities, authorities at different levels have not carried out their tasks thoroughly in forest protection. Especially commune level authorities have ignored or have been involved in illegal deforestation,” he said.
Bao Huy, an associate professor at Dak Lak-based Tay Nguyen University, said that deforestation has already caused serious consequences to the environment, including erosion and drought.
“Forests retain water and prevent erosion. Deforestation causes erosion and makes soil poorer, leading to falling agricultural productivity,” he said.
“Some flora and fauna species might have disappeared forever,” he added.
Le Ngoc Bau, director of the Western Highlands of Agriculture and Forestry Science Institute, said that rapid population growth has also led to forest losses.
“Changing forest land into plantations comes with tradeoffs, including harmful consequences to the environment and ecosystem, and more severe climate change impacts.”
He called for emergency and creative measures to protect forests in the region.
“Residents living near a forest benefit from it. And they should contribute to a fund for forest protection,” he said.