Viet Nam — Eight provinces and cities were warned about the dangers of forest fires being at dangerous levels including six regarded as extremely dangerous. On February 23, the numbers reached 12 and 7.
Ha Cong Tuan, chief of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Developments Forest Protection Department, said that the risk of forest fires is rising.
According to reports from local forest management agencies, by February 23, there were seven provinces warned of extremely dangerous levels of likelihood of forest fires. These were named as An Giang, Ca Mau, Gia Lai, Kien Giang, Kon Tum, Lam Dong in the southern region and Central Highlands and Son La in the north.
Twelve others were later listed including Binh Phuoc, Ba Ria Vung Tau, Dak Lak, Dong Nai, Dak Nong, Gia Lai, Lam Dong, Tay Ninh in the southern region and Central Highlands, Cao Bang, Hoa Binh, Lang son in the north and Nghe An in the central region.
Tuan said that following the impact of El Nino, the weather in Vietnam this year is very dry. The average temperature in all regions has increased by 2-3oC. In addition, the rainy season 2009 ended early while the average rainfall was very low.
During the Tet holiday, eight forest fires were reported, including one case that destroyed more than 1000ha of forests in the northern provinces of Lao Cai and Lai Chau.
According to the official, over 70 percent of forest fires in Vietnam are caused by farmers burning off trees to clear land for cultivation. Once forest fires happen, it is very difficult to stamp it out because Vietnam lacks modern firefighting equipment. The best measure is prevention.
Le Hoang Huong, director of the U Minh Thuong national park in the southern province of Kien Giang, said that the water level inside the park is reducing. The park is facing the fourth level of fire risk dangerous.
Ta Vu Linh, deputy director of the U Minh Ha national park, also said that more than 2000ha of forest int his park is at the fourth level of alarm and in one week, around 1000ha would be listed at the fifth level extremely dangerous. The park has arranged 180 employees to live in the forest for two months and not allowed any further people into the park.
At the Phu Quoc national park, more than 31,000ha of forest are in serious drought. The whole park now faces the highest level of forest fire alarm though the drought hasnt reached its peak. The parks director, Pham Quang Binh, said that all the parks staffs are living in the forest to prevent fires.
According to the Forest Protection Department of the southern province of An Giang, the province has over 18,000ha of forest at the highest level of fire risk, including 2700ha in Tinh Bien district and 4000ha in Tri Ton district.
The Forest Protection Department of the Central Highlands province of Gia Lai confirmed that all forests in 17 districts in Gia Lai province are now at the fifth level of alarm.
According to hydro meteorological experts, the Central Highlands will face the most serious drought in many years, especially in March and April.
A forest fire on February 13 destroyed nearly 2 hectares of 16-year-old pine trees in the Central Highlands province of Gia Lai.