Vietnam — Hoang Lien National Park covers an area of nearly 30,000ha, spreading across six upland communes of Lao Cai Province’s Sa Pa District and Lai Chau Province’s Than Uyen District.
Forest areas have increased over the years, mainly due to careless behavior, loose management, as well as illegal logging.
Party Committee Secretary of Sa Pa District, Ma Quang Trung, said “The national park has several huge forest fires every year. 80 per cent of the fires are caused by local people who burn fields for land cultivation”.
In the last five years, there were two huge forest fires that broke out in Hoang Lien National Park. In the largest forest fire in February 2010, fire destroyed approximately 1,700 ha of the park, including 1,000 ha at Ban Ho and Ta Van villages and 700ha in the area between Lao Cai and Lai Chau provinces, the People’s Committee of Lao Cai Province reported.
According to Deputy Chairman of the municipal People’s Committee Vang Van Khin, the core forest is home to some 10,300 people whose livelihood relies heavily on forest resources.
“Most of them are poor and generate income through forest-based activities, such as agriculture, rearing livestock and fisheries, or logging. An expansion of the local population, along with associated threats such as forest fires, will put more pressure on the national park,” he told the Viet Nam News Agency.
“Most residents are ethnic people who have low levels of education and literacy, therefore their poor awareness about fire prevention and their actions often cause forest fires,” he added.
“Although most people were aware of illegal logging, we still turned to logging because we had no alternative. The main income for us was from the forests.”
Of note, illegal logging was becoming increasingly brazen and more complex, as rangers from the national park said. Giang A Sinh, a resident of Gang Ta Chai Mong, Ta Van Commune, is an example. In December 2012, three forestry officers were hospitalised after Sinh and his accomplices attacked rangers when they tried to stop them from logging, the province’s Bureau of Forest Rangers reported.
The shortage of forest rangers and their lack of equipment, as well as the difficult terrain in the park, are major problems in preventing illegal logging, he said.
For long-term protection of the forest, Khin said, “The provincial authority needs to improve local residents’ awareness of illegal logging and its negative impacts, and increase efforts to combat this”.
He also suggested, “To effectively tackle this issue, authorities must support the people living in core forests so they can achieve sustainable livelihoods.”
In addition, faced with increasing threats on forestry resources, forestry officers cannot deal with the problem alone, and urged agencies at communes to increase their co-operation.
Hoang Kim Ke, Vice Head of Hoang Lien Forest Protection Department, also confirmed this goal, saying, “Local authorities need to improve the awareness and knowledge of people, especially in local communities who are living near the forest, so they will understand about forest fire prevention and fighting.”
The local community was urged to sign an agreement to stop burning fields for cultivation, cease illegal logging, along with taking responsibility for protecting the forests.
In a further effort to stop illegal logging and poaching, the Government will need to provide much stricter punishment, including prosecutions for violating forest management and protection regulations.
Hoang Lien national park covers the communes of San Sa Ho, Lao Chai, Ta Van, Ban Ho in Sa Pa District and a part of Muong Khoa Commune in Than Uyen District. The park was recognised by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Secretariat as heritage site in 2006.
It also includes a buffer zone of 38,724ha bordering some communes in the three districts of Van Ban, Than Uyen and Phong Tho in Lai Chau Province.