Vietnam: Dac Nong Province underestimates destroyed areas & feeds protection rumors that encourages cutting frenzy

One report said a 0.2-hectare portion of the Dac Ha forest had been
destroyed last December. A month later, a report said trees on another
0.75 hectares of the forest had felled. But a recent inspection by Dac
Nong Province forest wardens found the forest had in fact lost a total
of 6.3 hectares in those two cases, Lao Dong newspaper reported.

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The report said further that authorities in Dac Nong Province in the
Central Highlands had authorized the Dac Ha forestry enterprise to
protect around 11,000 hectares of forest and agricultural land in Dac
Nong District. Rumors had spread recently that the enterprise would be
closed, prompting a rush to fell trees by people bidding to pick up a
land plot in the area that the enterprise was charged with protecting.
But wardens and local authorities said such big loss of forest land
was “unusual.”

Several people hired to work at a section of the forest
said they had no idea who had logged the trees at the forest. But one
thing they knew for sure was “they [the loggers] must not be ordinary
people who will be detained once they enter a protected area.” The Dac
Ha forestry enterprise management said though its personnel had staked
out deforestation-prone areas, they had failed to catch the loggers.
But this defense appears to be weak.

Last December, the wardens caught two people felling trees at a section of the protected forest area, but their director, Nguyen Trung Hieu, had instructed them to release the loggers. Hieu then told Dac Nong authorities that he had let the two people go because a provincial official had phoned him and asked or the release.

Last week, Do Ngoc Duyen, the Dac Nong provincial
forest protection agency chief, said his agency had proposed that the
provincial government investigate the matter further to find out if
Hieu had abetted the loggers or hushed up their crime. The provincial
police have also been asked to investigate the logging as a criminal
action, Duyen said. Elsewhere, in the northern province of Thai
Nguyen, Vietnam News Agency reported the provincial forest protection
agency said Monday that action would be taken against Nong Van An,
head of a team tasked with controlling a protective forest area in Vo
Nhai District.
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