Cassava Farmers Encroach Upon Dong Hua Sao National Park

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Farmers use heavy equipment to clear an area for farming inside the protected forest.
Farmers use heavy equipment to clear an area for planting crops inside the protected forest.

A protected area in Champasack has been encroached upon by cassava farmers, say citizen journalists.

According to images released on social media by a local resident, hundreds of trees in the Dong Hua Sao National Bio-Diversity Conservation Area have been cut down in preparation for cassava plantations. 

Large swaths of land were burned and cleared for the plantations.

The Dong Hua Sao National Protected Area is located about 30 kilometers east of Pakse and about 10 kilometers south of central Paksong district. It covers an area some 1,100 sq km in size and was declared a national protected area in 1993.

The government has said it plans to develop the area for ecotourism as part of efforts to move toward sustainable tourism.

The images released on social media depict piles of timber inside forest, despite the area being protected.

The news comes as the Lao government recently issued new legislation in March authorizing the export of natural wood products.

But the regulations state that exporters who fabricate paperwork or provide misleading information, as well as those who smuggle timber from unlawful sources, may face criminal charges.

Logging and exploitation of natural resources have been a means for economic growth in Laos in the past, however, experts say that the nation will suffer when such resources are depleted.