La Nga protection forest severely deforested

La Nga protection forest in the territory of Thanh Son and Ngoc Dinh communes in Dinh Quan District of Dong Nai Province and a part of Dac Lua Commune in Tan Phu District of Dong Nai Province, managed by La Nga Forestry Company Limited (Vinafor La Nga), with a total area of more than 23,000 hectares, have been harmed by locals, including the family members of some company leaders.
La Nga protection forest severely deforested ảnh 1 Many teak trees in the La Nga protection forest were chopped down, leaving only their stumps on bare ground. (Photo: SGGP)
On June 23, traveling along the trails deep into the protective forests of Ngoc Dinh Commune, we could not help but feel painfully for the sight of hundreds of hectares of protection forests being mercilessly destroyed. Hundreds of hectares of teak and hopea odorata forests, which were grown many decades ago from the State budget, have been replaced by lush mango and tangerine orchards interspersed with private melaleuca forests. Even in many large areas, trees have been completely exploited, leaving only jagged stumps undulating on the ground.

Mr. U., a resident in Ngoc Dinh Commune, one of the people who filed a denunciation to the authorities about Vinafor La Nga's leaders selling protection forest land for illegal profits, led us to the watershed protection forest of Tri An Lake with an area of about 13 hectares in Sub-zone 155 in Hoa Trung Hamlet in Ngoc Dinh Commune. In 1976, this area was planted with teak trees. By around 2010, most teak trees were cut down and replaced by private melaleuca forest, leaving only about 100 trees. Recently, all melaleuca trees have also been exploited, leaving only large teak stumps.

A part of this area is allocated to a leader of Vinafor La Nga to manage, take care of, and intercrop fruit trees under the forest canopy. However, in a short time, most teak trees were chopped down and replaced by melaleuca trees without being punished by the authorities. Recently, this man even sold the allocated protection forest land to another person to pocket the money for his own.

Especially, in 2011, Vinafor La Nga assigned Luong Tuyet Mai, wife of Mr. Nguyen Manh Cuong, Deputy Director of Vinafor La Nga, to manage and cultivate 8.22 hectares of protection forest in Lot 2b of Plot 2 in Sub-zone 40, the central area in Ngoc Dinh Commune. On this area of protective forest land, there were 1,105 large teak trees, with heights of 8-16 meters, grown in 1979 from the State budget. According to Vinafor La Nga's justification, to manage forests and forest land closely, the unit assigned Mrs. Mai to sign contracts to take care of and protect 1,105 teak trees and intercrop with forestry and fruit trees into the forest glades, but must not affect the growth and development of teak trees.

However, according to the recent minutes of the Department of Natural Resources and Environment of Dong Nai Province, the current situation is that there are barbed wire fences around this land, concrete pillars, gate pillars, and a large iron gate. There is also a single-story house of about 70 square meters, livestock sheds, and a pond, with a total area of about 1,000 square meters. The remaining area is planted with melaleuca trees, banana plants, jackfruit trees, and other perennial plants, while many teak trees are dead. The above teak forest now only has about 400 dying teak trees because their stumps were pierced and burned.

The announcement on inspection conclusions of the Government Inspectorate on the observance of the law in the management and use of land originating from State-owned agricultural farms and plantation forests according to Directive No.11/CT-TTg dated on April 4, 2016, by the Prime Minister, shows that in the management and use of land at agricultural farms and plantation forests, including Vinafor La Nga, there are still many wrongdoings.

Specifically, Vinafor La Nga's forestry land was encroached by households with more than 492 hectares and arbitrarily intercropped with agricultural crops and short-term fruit trees under the forest canopy with an area of more than 1,156 hectares. Moreover, by December 31, 2017, Vinafor La Nga had signed 2,444 contracts with households on an area of more than 3,763 hectares of land according to Decree No.01/CP of the Government and has not signed contracts again following Decree No.135/2005/ND-CP of the Government, which is not in accordance with the provisions of law.

Mr. Do Manh Thang, Director of Vinafor La Nga, admitted that due to the large and complex area, the management of forest land of the company faced many difficulties, resulting in the company's forest land allocated by the State for management and exploitation having been encroached and used for wrong purposes by local people.

He denied the accusations that Vinafor La Nga’s leaders appropriated forest land to give to their family members and sold it to local people. As for the case of Luong Tuyet Mai, Mr. Thang admitted that the allocation of protective forest land of Vinafor La Nga to her in 2011 was not following regulations. The company had also repeatedly asked her to return the forest land but failed. Until May this year did she return it. Mr. Thang affirmed that the wrongdoings of her family in forest land management and use were partly the responsibility of Mr. Nguyen Manh Cuong, Deputy Director of Vinafor La Nga. Therefore, currently, the company has asked Mr. Cuong to report the incident for consideration to handle his responsibility according to the provisions of law.

By Tien Minh – Translated by Thuy Doan

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