Vietnam — Authorities in the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta are strengthening measures to prevent fires in thousands of ha of forests that have dried up.
Bay Nui (Seven Mountains) in An Giang Province, for instance, has 9,600 ha of forests, with many of them having raised the fire alarm to third and fourth levels, just below the highest level of five.
Luong Van Luyen, head of the An Giang Forest Protection Sub-department,
said besides regular measures to prevent forest fires, his agency had also stepped up communication campaigns about forest fires and their prevention.
But local authorities were concerned since the Ba Chua Xu Worship Festival in Bay Nui was approaching, he said. Devotees usually burn incense and light lamps and firewood in temples and pagodas to celebrate the festival.
Many families living in forests were entrusted with the job of protecting them in return for which they can exploit a certain amount of wood. But with life being hard and the income from protecting the forest not enough, they were unable to pay full attention to the task, Luyen admitted.
In Kien Giang Province, the Forest Protection Sub-department reported that 24,000ha of forests had raised the third or fourth levels of fire alarm.
In Phu Quoc Island alone, 4,000ha are facing a severe water shortage.
Authorities are digging 67 wells in the island and clearing grass fields to reduce the risk, when there is a fire, of spreading to the nearby forests.
The province has spent VND5.5 billion (US$260,000) on these efforts so far.
It has also asked stake holders to keep a close watch for forest fires and build dams to conserve water.
But the major concern is that many households in Phu Quoc and Long Xuyen illegally occupy forests and burn grass and trees.
Many forest fires were caused this way, Nguyen Thanh Binh, head of the forest protection agency, said.
Tran Van Thuc, deputy director of the Ca Mau Province Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, said many parts of the U Minh Ha National Park were facing the risk of fires.
Rangers were monitoring U Minh Ha around the clock and local residents were helping them in the task, he said.
This year the province has persuaded 6,929 families to commit to protecting the forests, put up 200 signboards warning against lighting fires, build 92 dams water storage, and take other measures to prevent fires.