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Laos marks national forests to check environment degradation

VIENTIANE, Jan. 30 — The Lao government will mark the boundaries of protected forests in an effort to prevent accidental encroachment into areas critical to biodiversity, said state-run daily Vientiane Times, Thursday.

Director General of the Forestry Resource Management Department Khamphanh Nanthavong said that despite financial constraints, the government would attempt to complete the demarcation of protected and sensitive areas by 2015.

Laos has 24 protected national forest areas that cover an area of 3.8 million hectares. An additional 4.7 million hectares of protected land are on the provincial and district level.

In 2013, more than 173 markers were placed along the boundaries of Lao PDR's national forests as revelations surfaced that thousands of hectares of protected forest had been encroached upon by farming and commercial tree plantations.

Local media reports suggest that approximately 39,000 hectares of the Phouphanang and Phoukhaokhuay National Protected Areas have been encroached upon in recent years.

Forestry officials have stated that protected forests in Laos have been deteriorating for over a decade. In many cases healthy looking forest facades belie illegal logging hidden deep in the forests.

A recent budgetary review by the Lao government found that the revenue collected from the timber and wood sector is disproportionate to the rate of deforestation nationally.

According to Khamphanh the government will use all means possible to deal with those occupying protected forestry areas. Some of the occupants have been given permission by local authorities to set up commercial tree plantations meaning that the situation will be addressed on a case by case basis.

Recent concern over the health of Lao forests has led the government to launch a program to encourage the modernization of timber processing factories. The move hopes to ensure that businesses meet strict standards for the export of wood and timber products while making inspection and regulation by authorities easier.

Lao PDR used to be one of the most highly forested countries in the world. Seventy percent of the country was covered in forest in 1940 but that number fell to 47 percent in 1992 and further to 40 percent in 2010. (PNA/Xinhua)

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