Vietnam — Restoration is about to begin in fire-damaged Hoang Lien National Park, in northern mountainous Lao Cai Province. Van Hoa (Culture) newspaper interviewed park director Pham Van Dang
What recovery work is being carried out at the park?
The provincial People’s Committee had asked us to calculate the burnt area to plan reforestation. In a preliminary report, we recommend replanting 400ha while we consider other areas more carefully. We hope to produce the final report within a few days.
According to a provincial report on February 26, 700ha of forest was destroyed. Why do you only suggest to replant 400ha?
The 700ha reported was the total area of the fire. The provincial report did not identify the area of trees which would recover without intervention. It also included in its calculations the stone mountain areas where there were only a few plantations.
We plan to replant with fast growing trees like fig and eugenia which also have good economic values and, most importantly, they don’t catch fire easily.
We have appointed our branch to plan and plant the first 150ha at a time when we can take advantage of rain.
What is the role of the local people?
We have agreed with Ta Van Commune’s People Committee in Sapa that we will employ people from the commune to plant and tend the forest with our seeds and at our cost. Our staff will supervise. We plan to plant 150ha this year and the other 250ha next year.
What level of fire prevention is in the park?
The risk of forest fire is still high. Our staff watch all the communes and villages in the area 24 hours a day and every day, with the help of local people, we patrol the park for any sign of fire.
When will you open the park to visitors?
After the fire, all tourism activities in the park were stopped. However, since February 21 the risk has been lower so we have allowed some tourists to climb Fansipan Peak to minimise the loss of the travel agent and to avoid disappointing the tourists.
As for agents who signed contracts with us before the fire, we offered two solutions. The first was to suspend tourism activities until the risk of forest fire was reduced to protect tourists’ lives and preventing further fires.
With contracts that could not be suspended, we offered to cancel the contract and return the deposit to the travel agents.
We are watching carefully for any change of the weather over the next 5-7 days. If it rains and the risk of fire is reduced, we will ask the committee to open the park to tourists.
However, when we open the park, we will supervise tourists closely, only allowing them to bring prepared food into the forest and forbidding them to cook. We will also ask tourists to rest in concentrated areas instead of at different places so that we can better watch and protect them.