A high-ranking official at the Lao Prime Minister's Office reveals that the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry has finished drafting a decree on the protection of forest resources and has officially submitted it to the cabinet for approval, with the expectation that Prime Minister Bouasone Bouphavanh will sign it into law as soon as possible.
The draft decree will play an important role in the work of the Agriculture and Forestry Ministry officials, defining their jobs and responsibilities both in the conservation of forest resources and the suppression of illegal logging for illicit timber trade. The decree, which will expand the implementation of the current law on forest and forest strategy to 2020, will also define the scope of management, protection, development as well as use of conserved forest areas.
However, forestry officials say it is very difficult to stop illegal logging for illicit timber trade because the government lacks budget and the necessary means to carry out efficient inspection nationwide.
At the same time, they say it is not easy either to enlist help and cooperation from the citizenry to be eyes and ears for the government if they do not see any gain in return.<!-- IMAGE -->
The Lao government has set a goal to reforest and cover 70% of the nation's total land mass with forest areas by 2020. A 1992 survey found that forests covered 47% of the total land mass back then. In 2002, that percentage was down to 42%, and to less than 35% currently.
Illegal logging is not the only cause of continued deforestation in Laos. Slash and burn agriculture and land concessions for major development projects are other key factors. Exceeding quotas granted by provincial authorities also plays a major role.
Songrit Pongern reported from Bangkok on April 1, 2010. Listen to Songrit's report for more details in Lao.