Military exercises destroy vast swathes of forest in central Vietnam

By Vi Vu   October 11, 2017 | 12:26 am PT
Military exercises destroy vast swathes of forest in central Vietnam
Part of a forest destroyed in Dak Nong Province. Photo courtesy of Vietnam News Agency
Dak Nong Province wants those responsible to pay for wasting 175 hectares of natural forest.

Authorities in the Central Highlands province of Dak Nong have asked the military to punish officers responsible for conducting exercises that destroyed 175 hectares (432 acres) of forest.

The province issued the request on Tuesday after an investigation found that the forest allocated for military defense purposes since 2008 had been completely wiped out.

More than three quarters of the area, which is as big as 220 soccer fields, was natural.

The province’s environment department said that local forest management and commune officials in Dak G’Long District were also responsible for the loss.

At least three of them have been rebuked while seven others have received an official warning. The next level of punishment handed down by Vietnam’s government and Party is demotion.

Dak Nong has seen the fastest rate of forest loss in the Central Highlands, possibly the most heavily covered  area in Vietnam. Every year, the province reports hundreds of hectares of lost forest and busts hundreds of illegal deforestation operations.

On a larger scale, the Central Highlands lost nearly 358,797 hectares (14 percent) of its forest area between 2008 and 2015, according to a report by the Central Highlands Steering Committee, an advisory agency for the Communist Party.

Most trees were chopped down by illegal loggers or sacrificed to make way for commercial crops, new roads or hydropower plants.

A Dak Nong leader said in 2015 that it had been difficult to stop deforestation because it was either condoned or overlooked by authorities, a statement that has been backed by the arrests and suspensions of several officials in central Vietnam over the past two years.

The country’s forests are disappearing so fast that Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc ordered a total ban on clearing natural forests in 2016 to protect the country's last remaining 2.25 million hectares.

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