Laos' Minister of Agriculture and Forestry, Sitaheng Rasphonh, says a comprehensive map for a systematic development of the nation's land and forests has been drafted with a long-term goal of reclaiming Laos' forests back to cover 79% of the total land area by 2020.
Addressing the on-going 5th session of the 6th Legislature or National Assembly, Mr. Sitaheng said the map identifies areas to be allotted for private concessions and to be conserved for reforestation, as well as areas to be developed into arable lands.
The goal is to turn some 18.7 million hectares or about 79% of the country's total lands into forests, and to develop some 1.4 million hectares into arable lands for economic crops especially those that can be processed into fuel. The Lao government also plans to develop more lands to expand rice paddy acreages from the current one million hectares to two million by 2020.
Laos' forests have steadily shrunk over the past fifteen years, from 47% in 1992 to 41% in 2002, and now 35%, because of deforestation due to illegal loggings and indiscriminate concessions.
Authorities have taken measures to curb illegal logging, but to no avail. The public and members of the legislature are frustrated at the government's ineffectiveness in solving the problem.
Listen to Songrit's report for more details in Lao.