Illegal logging in Laos for illicit lumber exports to Thailand, Vietnam and China, where demands for valuable hard wood are rising, has become an increasingly serious problem. As acknowledged by Lao agricultural officials, illegal loggings are still widespread and have steadily increased, especially since the beginning of 2008. Officials added that since the start of the year, they have seized over 50,000 cubic meters of illegal timbers throughout the country, along with almost 80 trucks, as well as other kinds of vehicles and a number of equipments.
However, despite the rise in illegal logging activities, concerned Lao officials still have not been able to provide clear information on the acreage of forest areas being destroyed by illegal logging for smuggling purpose. On the other hand, international forest monitoring and conservation groups, such as the Global Witness and the International Forest Resource Monitoring and Investigation Organization, have issued their assessment results which are consistent with one another, indicating that the amount of timber being cut down each year is definitely greater than the quota given by Lao government. They confirm that while the government logging quota is under 150,000 cubic meters, the actual logging always exceeds that amount by at least 100,000 cubic meters, almost doubling the official quota.
This situation has greatly spread negative impact on both the livelihood of the Lao people and the environment in general. As Mr. KhamOuan Boupha, Minister to the Lao Prime Minister’s Office, has pointed out, “Logging has become a means to an end in Laos’ development. Everywhere we turn, there’s logging, logging to clear lands for electrical production industry, for agricultural production for industrial purposes, and for eco-tourism, so logging has dramatically destroyed the country’s forest areas. Logging activities have now turned to conservation areas as well as watersheds. And wherever there is reduced forest area, there is drought, and also the loss of farmland, because the clearing of forest has eventually led to increased erosion of arable soil, making it impossible for Lao people to cultivate any crops including rice, since all that is left are rocks. And then comes drought and consequently shortage of drinking water. As a result, they have become displaced people who have no place to settle down."
Nonetheless, Laos has launced a tree planting campaign and plans to increase its forest density to 70% of the total land area by 2020. According to Mr. Kham Ouane’s estimate, forests currently covers only 35% of the country’s land.
Listen to Songrit's report for more details in Lao.