Forests in the Central Highlands region are shrinking rapidly, losing nearly 130,000 hectares during the 2007-12 period due to shortcomings in management and protection.

The figure was provided by the Directorate of Forestry, which is calling for drastic measures to solve the situation.

As a result, the natural forest acreage in the central highlands provinces including Kon Tum, Gia Lai, Dak Lak, Dak Nong, and Lam Dong, is now only 1.8 million hectares, according to the Directorate's report.

Dak Lak province over the past five years discovered over 9,000 violations of forest protection regulations, damaging 8,533 hectares of forests. Meanwhile, nearly 6,000 cases have been reported in Kon Tum.

Serious deforestation also occurred in Gia Lai province.

According to Nguyen Thi Tra, from Gia Lai province's Union of Science and Technology Associations, the loss of forests in the province as well as in the region resulted from the conversion of forestland to rubber plantations without concerted management among related ministries and departments.

Nearly 8,000 hectares of forests, consequently, had been eliminated completely, she added.

Unofficial statistical data revealed that the Central Highlands so far has granted licences to 700 forestry projects, covering an area of 216,000 hectares, including 100,000 hectares for rubber plantation.

However, lack of budget as well as irresponsibility of many project owners paved the way for serious forest destruction and encroachment.

Insufficiency of staff is also blamed for the destruction as 56 forestry companies were assigned to manage up to one million hectares of forests throughout the region.

Besides, local authorities' loose management of 1,500 wood processing enterprises is another cause leading to illegal logging of natural forests.-VNA