Laos: Arbor Day boosts drive to increase forest cover

Vientiane Times

Vice President Phankham Viphavanh, officials and children attend a tree planting ceremony in Vientiane on Saturday.

By Souksakhone Vaenkeo / Vientiane TimesParty and state leaders and members of the public planted thousands of saplings on National Arbor Day on Saturday, giving a huge boost to the government’s effort to increase forest cover to 70 percent by 2020.

Vice President Phankham Viphavanh, other senior party and state officials and civil servants took part in an official tree planting ceremony at the Houayyang-Dongmarkkhai Botanical Garden in Xaythany district, Vientiane, planting saplings across five hectares.

Speaking at the event, Minister of Agriculture and Forestry Dr. Lien Thikeo said the ministry planned to plant trees across 50 hectares in the botanical garden.

Elsewhere, party and state officials and a large number of individuals turned out to plant thousands of trees across the country.

Recalling the origins of National Arbor Day, Lien said the Ministerial Council (now known as the government Cabinet) in 1980 resolved that June 1 be designated National Arbor Day, to coincide with International Children’s Day.

The day was designated as such to teach children about the important role that forests play in the environment and national socioeconomic development, and to encourage children to plant trees on this occasion.

Thanks to this awareness-raising campaign, newly planted areas increased threefold from just 452 hectares in 1978 to 1,384 hectares in 1985. Backed by various supporting policies, new tree plantations increased to 486,600 hectares by the end of 2018. Of this area, 66.5 percent was planted out by businesses, 33 percent by the general public, and the rest by state entities.

This year, the ministry is encouraging both the state and private sectors to plant trees across 20,000 hectares throughout the country, moving closer to the government’s goal to increase total forest cover to 70 percent by 2020.

However, it is unlikely that this target will be met. A ministry report suggests that forest cover is expected to increase to 68 percent or 16.28 million hectares of the country’s land area by the end of next year.

To achieve the 70 percent target, the authorities need to plant more trees on the remaining 2 percent of land, equal to 473,600 hectares, according to the report.

Steps have been taken to meet the target by protecting degraded forests so that they regrow and are rehabilitated naturally, as well as preventing logging in ways that are unsustainable, and planting more trees. A senior official from the Forestry Department said previously that logging was permitted in production forests only if carried out in a sustainable manner.

Only 4-7 cubic meters of wood may be cut in one hectare of woodland, which is required to contain at least 70 cubic meters of timber. Logging of the same area may resume 15 years later to give trees time to regrow.

The official said the 480,000 hectares earmarked for industrial tree plantations represented just 3 percent of the 70 percent forest cover. But not all the trees in industrial plantations will mature at the same time, so logging will take place intermittently, resulting in only a minor decrease in tree cover.Speech

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