Greater Mekong, including Vietnam, losing forests at alarming rate

By Ngoc Dinh   July 21, 2018 | 04:40 pm PT
Greater Mekong, including Vietnam, losing forests at alarming rate
A tree is chopped down in an illegal logging case busted in central Vietnam in March 2018. Photo by VnExpress/Dac Thang
The Greater Mekong region is among 11 hotspots where more than 80 percent of global forest loss will occur in the coming decades.

This frightening statistic is contained in the “Pulse of the Forest” report released recently by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

While the report attempts to strike a hopeful note by highlighting a few attempts by individuals and communities to stem the rot, the figures it cites are sobering in the extreme.

The report says that the region, once one of the world’s most densely forested areas, has lost a third of its forests already and could lose another third in the next ten years.

It also says the region, including Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam, is one of the top 11 deforestation hotspots in the world. In the next few decades, 80 percent of the world's forests will be lost mostly in these 11 hotspots.

“These five countries could account for 17 percent - or 30 million hectares – of global deforestation by 2030 unless serious action is taken,” a WWF press release on the report warned.

It notes that forest degradation is being caused by agricultural expansion, rubber plantation, legal and illegal logging, road openings, dam construction and other infrastructure constructions. This leads to “lower incomes, poor health, landslides, causing hundreds of deaths and extreme weather impacts from climate change.

“Ironically, agriculture is also totally reliant on forests for crop and plant diversity along with healthy water supplies.”

Thibault Ledecq, Coordinator of WWF-Greater Mekong Forest Program, is optimistic, despite the magnitutde of the problem.

“The people and projects detailed in this report prove there is hope and it is possible to earn a good living while protecting the forests, wildlife and benefits of healthy ecosystems.”

The report highlights several success stories in the region, including increased income from certified acacia cultivation, deforestation-free rubber cultivation and communities earning incomes while replanting and protecting forests from illegal loggers and wildlife.

Government, business leaders and the public should recognize the value of forests to clean water, stock carbon, human health and livelihoods and the need to protect them, the press release said.

It said government leaders and businesses should agree to put “responsible forestry at the heart of their timber supply chains” and the latter should commit to and implement a zero deforestation supply chain approach.

Consumers and manufacturers should demand deforestation free products that respect and support community based industries, and there must more innovation to help communities add value to sustainable forest products.

The report calls for “mapping High Conservation Value Forests and understanding forest landscapes in order to better plan where agriculture, development and plantations are placed and avoid damaging critical habitat.”

It also recommends “clear laws for sustainable forestry and public private partnerships.”

“We shouldn’t wait around for others to act,” Ledecq says.

“The future of the Mekong’s forests is in all of our hands.”

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