Monday, March 19, 2012

Hydropower water reservoirs lend a hand to illegal lumberjacks



Forests being devastated

After the water reservoirs get full of water, illegal lumberjacks use the reservoirs as the “springboard” to attack primary forests, which they could not approach in the past due to the difficult terrain. They also can use the reservoir water as the useful tool to carry timber to the lowland.

Dang Dinh Nguyen, Deputy Head of the Quang Nam provincial Forest Ranger Unit, said on Lao dong newspaper that with the high water level, illegal lumberjacks can easily approach the trees in the forests by traveling on engine boats. After chopping down the old trees, they carry the timber to their “storehouses” also very easily on the waterways.

In the past, the rare and precious forests in the area between the Nam Giang and Tay Giang districts were considered unapproachable. However, thanks to the hydropower water reservoirs, they now can easy access the area and chop down hundreds of cubic meters of timber.

In the Dak Mi 4 hydropower plant area, reporters could see the timber which has been split into planks. A forest ranger said illegal lumberjacks would only carry away the best timber. A lot of century old trees fell down, thus damaging the small trees as well.

Tuoi tre has quoted local authorities officials as saying that 55 cubic meters were discovered illegally exploited after the Dak Mi reservoirs stored water in late 2011.

Most of the primary forests and old forests in the areas of Dak Mi 4, Song Tranh 2, A Vuong, Song Bung 2, Song Trang 3 and Song Bung 4 hydropower reservoirs have been seriously compromised. Meanwhile, local residents, who live in the areas which bear the influences from hydropower plants, have unwillingly destroyed the forests, because they do not have land for agricultural production.

In Phuoc Son district alone, 27 deforestation cases have been found, in which forest rangers seized nearly 100 cubic meters of timber. Several days ago, the forest rangers of Phuoc Son district seized two engine boats which carried timber on Dak Mi reservoir.

Local residents said that before the Dak My reservoir stored water, illegal lumberjacks mostly carried illegal timber on the Ho Chi Minh Road. However, later Dak Mi reservoir has become the artery for them to carry illegally chopped down timber.

Who takes responsibility?

Nguyen Thanh Quang, Director of the Quang Nam provincial department for agriculture and rural development, affirmed that local authorities must be the first agencies that take responsibility for their slow discovery and reaction.

However, Chair of Bac Tra My district people’s committee Dang Phong said that it is to blame on forest rangers, who have been assigned the task of protect the forests. Meanwhile, Pham Thanh Lam, Head of the Forest Ranger Unit, said that the unit needs more workers, equipment and canoes to fulfill their tasks.

At the urgent meeting gathered on March 12, Deputy Chair of the provincial people’s committee Nguyen Ngoc Quang said that it is necessary to keep a tighter control over the means of transports traveling in the reservoir area. However, experts have pointed out that the hydropower plant investors also have to take responsibility for this. They run the power plants and sell electricity for money, while they remain the outsiders in dealing with the forest deforestation.

Quang has affirmed that the hydropower plants have not taken any actions to cooperate with relevant branches to manage the preventive forests so far.