Current peat reserves of U Minh Ha forest in southernmost Ca Mau province are estimated at 13 million tonnes, worth tens of millions of US dollars, according to the Southern Geological Mapping Division under the General Department of Geology and Minerals of Vietnam.

That was just part of greater peat reserves that existed here in the past, said Nguyen Tan Truyen - deputy head of the science-international cooperation section at the U Minh Ha National Park.

He added forest fires have ruined a considerable volume and area of peatland.

Peat is a rare non-renewable natural resource with high economic value. The peatland area in Vietnam is only 36,000ha with about 24,000ha in the Mekong Delta and U Minh forests in Ca Mau and neighbouring Kien Giang province.

In U Minh Ha forest, peat can only be found in 8,527ha out of the total area of 40,000ha.

Peat acts as a filter helping refine water while peatlands are critical to easing the seriousness of floods and sustaining river flows in the dry season. This type of land also harbours a rich diversity of endemic species.-VNA