The Lao government has set up a special task force to deal with illegal logging and illegal lumber exports to neighboring countries. The new task force is headed by Deputy Prime Minister and former Foreign Minister Somsavad Lengsavat.
The preventive and crackdown measures were taken after authorities recently seized 11 truck-loads of illegal lumber in the province of Oudomxay. Subsequent interrogat-ion and investigation revealed that 63 truck-doads of illegal lumber had been previously exported to neighboring countries. That raised the suspicion that some local officials might have been involved in the trade.
It is estimated that forests currently covers only about 40% of Laos' territory, down from 70% in 1940. Lao authorities vowed to crackdown hard on illegal loggings and exports, and to reforest at an annual rate of 20,000 hectares a year to recover their original forest areas by 2020. But critics say, with Laos aiming to become the battery of Asia by having 29 dam projects by that year, they doubt that goal will be reached.
Listen to our Laos Today report for more details.