The Status of Laos’ Forests
The beauty of Laos resides not only in its charming people and sabai sabai culture, but also in the large amounts of green forests that cover the country. Decades of improper and unplanned use of forest areas, deforestation, slash-and-burn-cultivation practices by indigenous peoples in mountainous areas have led to a noticeable reduction in Laos’ arboreal resources – less than 40% of the country’s total land area – in the 1990s.
However, according to Sousad Xayakoummane, Director of the Forestry Department of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, things have been looking brighter as the government’s reforestation efforts have increased the nation’s forest cover from 40% (since 2012) to 58% of the total land area in 2017.
The government has set an ambitious plan to restore forest cover to 70% (its original state in 1940) of the country’s terrain by 2020, in government hosted seminar which included Deputy Prime Minister Sonexay Siphandone, Agriculture and Forestry Minister Lien Thikeo, deputy provincial governors, and representatives from the relevant sectors.
“In recent years, the government and local authorities have focused on sustainable forest resource protection by issuing policies, laws and regulations,” said the Deputy Prime Minister.
In 2000, the government issued a decree on commercial tree plantation and environmental protection allowing for the allocation of tree plantation areas and land concession activities, ownership of farmed trees, credit policies, tax exemptions and reductions.
“The implementation of the policies and strategies over the past years has not yet been satisfactory as there have been continued impacts on forest resources and forest areas have decreased,” said Xayakoummane.