A decimated forest area in Cu M’Lan commune, Ea Sup district, the Central Highlands Province of Dak Lak. (Photo VNA)

Dak Lak (VNS/VNA) -
Dozens of hectares of forest were illegally cut down and private properties were constructed along National Road 29 in the area between Ea Sup and Buon Don districts as authorities admitted they were struggling to stop the encroachment.

The Government confirmed earlier this year that National Road 29, an important route connecting Central Highlands localities with south-central coastal areas that have suffered serious degradation due to floods and overcrowding, will be upgraded to facilitate the flow of goods and boost the economic vitality of the region.

According to local people, the buildings erected on devastated forest land will be used as a basis for the owners to claim higher compensation from the Government when construction begins. Roadside locations also make for more lucrative business once the route begins receiving more traffic.

Large tracts of natural forest in subdivision 296 of Cu M’Lan Commune in Ea Sup district were cut down – thousands of trees of different varieties, from highly valuable species to common wood with trunk diameters reaching 20-40cm, piled up on the forest floor waiting to be transported away, while their vegetation was burnt.

On the 2,000 sq.m of land belonging to a woman who went by the name of Tran Huyen Trang in the subdivision, there are already three freshly built wooden houses with tin roofs – one serving as a private residence, one marked with a “charity class” plate and another as a shop for agricultural equipment.

Trang told a Vietnam News Agency reporter she bought the land from a Dao ethnic minority man for 200 million VND (8,640 USD) with full written proof of land ownership from the previous owner, but failed to produce the documents.

Some households in the commune said a group of people, likely working for land speculators, have come to the area to clear the forest, divide the land and sell the parcels to interested buyers.

The forest area was under the management of the one-member Dak Lak Food Processing and Forestry Co Ltd based in Ea Sup district.

Nguyen Van Quyen, deputy director of the company, said the offenders destroyed the forest and constructed buildings at night and that the local forest rangers were constantly understaffed and could not prevent the violations.

Quyen was previously disciplined by local authorities for negligence leading to the loss of 10,500ha in Ea Sup district as people encroached upon the forest over several years to build houses and do agriculture.

Similar scenes of destruction could also be seen in other forest areas under Ea Sup district and Buon Don district’s protection forest zone.

Buon Don protection forest zone’s management board said that in the 10,200ha under its supervision, 14ha of forest land running along National Road 29 are at heightened risk of being destroyed. From February 6-23, three hectares of this land were violated.

Le Danh Khoi, head of the management board, said the land was the primary target of the offenders, not the trees.

Talking to Vietnam News Agency, Deputy Director of the Dak Lak Forest Protection Department Mai Van Kien said that after receiving reports on the deforestation along National Road 29, the department ordered forest rangers of Buon Don and Ea Sup districts to better co-operate with each other and with local authorities and instructed forest owners to step up patrols at hotspots to prevent further infringements.-VNS/VNA