Central Highlands provinces need to accelerate measures to protect and develop regional forests which are currently suffering from significant deforestation.

According to the National Steering Committee on Forest Protection and Development, forest areas in Dak Lak, Dak Nong, Gia Lai, Kon Tum and Lam Dong stood at 2,567,116 hectares, of which natural forest accounts for nearly 2,254,000 hectares.

Compared to 2008, the forest area in the Central Highland has fallen by nearly 360,000 hectares, bringing the total forest coverage down to 45.8 percent. Excluding areas under industrial crops, the coverage rate drops to 32.4 percent.

The loss of forest land in the region is due to socio-economic development in the locality, particularly a project to use forest land to grow rubber trees and other purposes, all of which was carried out without permits from authorised agencies.

Over 15,792 hectares of forest in the region were cut down for the sake of hydroelectricity and other projects. Investors have only re-planted 892 hectares.

In addition, the decline of forest land is also attributed to rampant acts of forest destruction and land encroachment for agricultural production by ethnic groups’ slash-and-burn practice or illegal migrants, which deforested 88,603 hectares.

Localities have detected and handled 3,163 cases of deforestation and illegal timber exploitation since 2013. Reforestation in the region has seen improvement but is unable to keep pace with forest reduction.

In 2014, 13,431 hectares were planted, meeting only 74 percent of the annual target.-VNA