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Thailand’s green cover in slow decline as 40% goal remains out of reach

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Thailand’s green cover in slow decline as 40% goal remains out of reach

By Kornrawee Panyasuppakun 
The Nation 

 

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THAILAND has been ambitiously aiming to have 40 per cent of its land turned into lush green forests, but this goal set in 1975 has yet to be accomplished.
 

The aim was to have conserved forests cover 25 per cent of the country and commercial forests cover the remaining 15 per cent, Ornyupa Sangkamarn, chief of Seub Nakhasathien Foundation’s academic section, said. 

 

She was speaking at an event held in remembrance of leading conservationist Seub Nakhasathien at Bangkok Art and Culture Centre on Sunday. 

 

“To reach this 40 per cent goal, we would need to turn 27 million rai into forests. That is challenging,” she pointed out.

 

In reality, instead of getting closer to the goal, data collected last year by the Royal Forest Department and Kasetsart University’s Faculty of Forestry showed a slightly downward trend. 

 

Despite an increase in forest cover in other regions of the country, the North lost roughly 90,000 rai (14,400 hectares) or 0.24 per cent of forested land to agriculture. However, it still has the largest green area with 64.21 per cent of the North still covered in forests. 

 

Forest cover in Thailand as a whole has dropped by 18,000 rai compared to 2016. At present, forests cover 31.58 per cent or 102 million rai of the country. 

 

“Over the past five years, the forest cover for Thailand has remained steady at 31 to 32 per cent,” Ornyupa added. “This [18,000-rai loss] is not too worrisome compared to the million rai of forest lost every year from 2008 to 2013. 

 

“For those five to six years, we had cleared up to 5 million rai for agriculture … The goal to cover 40 per cent of the Kingdom with forests can be challenging, but not unattainable. 

 

“And the goal to have 25 per cent of land as conserved forests is within our reach because we have already reached the 23-per-cent mark,” Ornyupa concluded. 

 

However, she said, reforms and better incentives for the private sector are required to increase commercial forested land. 

 

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Commercial forests

 

Conserved forests include national parks and wildlife sanctuaries, while commercial forests are privately owned land.

 

Ornyupa said one incentive to increase commercial forests would be to encourage private landowners to plant and cut valuable trees such as teak and Siamese rosewood on their own land.

 

She added that the Cabinet has already okayed an amendment to the Forest Act to make this possible. Previously, these trees could not be felled even if they were growing on privately owned land. 

 

“Once the law is enforced, people will be able to grow commercially viable trees so they can be sustainably cut down. This will also decrease illegal logging,” Ornyupa explained. 

 

Siamese rosewood, which takes some 30 years to grow, has a market value of Bt300,000. 

 

Source: http://www.nationmultimedia.com/detail/national/30354160

 
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-- © Copyright The Nation 2018-09-11

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I like what the government is doing which is to encourage tree farming instead of vegetables. Vegetable fields are frequently burnt and heavily poisoned. The benefits of having trees in these fields are countless; less erosion, more oxygen, habitat, etc. The tree idea seems well thought out allowing farmers to get cash during the many years it will take the trees to mature. But is there enough financial incentive for farmers to switch? Maybe. Because it sounds awfully tantalizing--the farmer plants a bunch of trees then the government gives them huge loans based on what they will eventually be worth. They'll see that as free money and once one person does it and gets a pile of cash, others will quickly follow.

 

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5 hours ago, webfact said:

one incentive to increase commercial forests would be to encourage private landowners to plant and cut valuable trees

Now being made easy by Prayut.

Recently his Cabinet approved an amendment to the forestry laws that allows landowners to make decisions about protected trees residing on their lands without first seeking approval from forestry officials!

This amendment essentially also bypasses Thailand's environmental laws.

 

Seeing as the Thai military holds personal title (and not the Thai government) to forest lands (ie., granted to it by the Crown), the amendment allows it further opportunity to profit through its own commercialization of Thailand forests without heeding the nation's environmental laws.

Not that the military gives serious attention to the nation's laws as they might apply to the military. Case in point was military forest lands granted to the Thai Appeals Courts so it can develop the Doi Suthep forest area near Chiang Mai. The military alone decided whether there was any adverse environmental impacts regardless of the nations laws for a government environmental review report.

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4 minutes ago, Srikcir said:

so it can develop the Doi Suthep forest area near Chiang Mai

My understanding is this was always military owned property, not forestry land. The military has the right to use their land however they wish. Let's put this in context. The people love clearing every tree from every property which is plainly obvious. Yet the people harshly condemned the military for doing exactly what they do. Sure I would have loved perfect world stuff where the military to signed over the land to national forests, but I cannot find fault with what the military did. It was a case of condemning the military by scraping up some forest excuses to support this condemnation. Because if they actually cared they would be protesting anyone that encroached on national forest land. Or anyone that hunts and ravages and burns down the national forests. But they do absolutely nothing about this and care less the real protected forests are disappearing. Simply silence from them. Can't help but notice the bias.

 

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THAILAND has been ambitiously aiming to have 40 per cent of its land turned into lush green forests

 

. . . while blithely hacking down half a forest on sacred land in Chiang Mai to build ritzy homes for judges. 

 

You couldn't make it up.

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In our village two years ago, the Amphur came out with a tree planting project with tons of fanfare and media coverage.  Two years later, 99% of the trees planted along side the roads are gone.  Why?  After the fanfare and photo-ops absolutely nobody but one or two people took care of the newly planted saplings.  So they were overgrown or simply cut down with all the other weeds.  Most of the trees still growing are on land bordering one resident's home in the village who has actively taken care of those trees.  So, as happens so often in Thailand, a lot of hot air is wasted about combating hot air. 

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19 hours ago, Krataiboy said:

. . . while blithely hacking down half a forest on sacred land in Chiang Mai to build ritzy homes for judges. 

You are a perfect example of a fair weather activist. The small bit of land you refer to belongs to the military and was developed legally. It's not national forest or anything of that sort. But yet you suddenly show the highest concern about saving the forest. This article mentions a million rai of actual forestry land has been stolen and lost forever due to illegal encroachment. More genuine, pristine forest land goes missing before breakfast than the size of that military plot. So where is your concern about this? Suddenly you aren't an activist standing up for the forest anymore. You don't care. So be honest with yourself, you could care less about disappearing forest land, you are just trying to find a way to criticize a certain faction.

 

I wish more people genuinely cared about the forests in Thailand.

 

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Government policy for many years, and especially in the last 5, has encouraged 'farmers' (and I us that word loosely) to cut down forest and plant corn and cassava. These crops grow on poor soils, need no irrigation and provide money quite quickly and regularly. Where I live, people with an income already coming in often plant mango, oranges or lemons instead of real trees because these crops provide a yearly or even twice yearly crop which suits people living week by week. They sometimes clear proper forest to do this. Very few people are wealthy enough to own decent sized plots of land that they can plant with long-term tree crops, spend money irrigating and weeding to get them started, and then wait 15 years for some income. The only institutions that could do this are government owned with workers who get a monthly salary, holders of big land areas that can be reforested in places that can be protected. Passing the onus off to the poor is in my view just irresponsible and unnecessary. The government is in the perfect position to reforest and needs to get on with the job. The only other section of society that could 'do their bit' is the mega wealthy who own massive amounts of land and who are not depending on an income next week. The recent case of Mr Premchai and his connected family businesses supposedly owning 6000 rai of Loei gives an indication of the amount of land sitting wasted in the hands of Thailand politician, military and business elite. These are people who should be aiding the reforestation but who are in fact doing the opposite.

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21 hours ago, canopy said:

My understanding is this was always military owned property, not forestry land.

I found this from Thai PBS explaining the passing of the land first to the military and then to the Treasury;

The land plot on which the housing project of the Region 5 Appeals Court is located used to be “prohibited” land under the supervision of the military in accordance with the Royal Decree B.E. 2483. But in 1957, the “prohibited land” covering over 23,000 rai was ceded by the military to the control of the Treasury Department.

In 1997, a 147-rai land plot of the Treasury Department’s land was ceded to the 5th Region Appeals Court for the construction of a court house and housing units for judges and officials.

Full article;   

http://englishnews.thaipbs.or.th/national-parks-department-clarifies-land-judges-housing-project-doi-suthep/

 

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14 minutes ago, Lungstib said:

They sometimes clear proper forest to do this

You seem to excuse the poor to take from the forest and condemn the rich for having the audacity to do the same thing. This is a surprisingly common bias among expats, Thai's, and even the forestry department itself. The forests are disappearing and we shouldn't wait until it's all gone before waking up. Equal enforcement regardless of the wealth or social status of those encroaching is required to save the forests. Absolutely Premchai's 6000 rai should be taken and they are vigorously going after just his holdings. But they should go after the other million rai that no one, not even the forestry department, wants to take back because it's poor people there. Being poor should not be an excuse to steal and pillage the last remaining forests as it is today. When it's all gone, then what do the poor jobless people do to get by? Alternatives for these people are needed right now, not waiting for them to take everything before we start think about that. It's just a despicable thing to watch.

 

I have a sad prediction about Premchai's illegal land. They will take it from him and distribute it to the poor. It won't be returned to the forest. Let's see.

 

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26 minutes ago, canopy said:

You seem to excuse the poor to take from the forest and condemn the rich for having the audacity to do the same thing. This is a surprisingly common bias among expats, Thai's, and even the forestry department itself.

I was actually trying to point out that this was more forest gone. The tree covered hills behind me which form the Thai-Burma border are slowly disappearing and I am dead against it. All these hills should be govt protected. But the poorer people who clear and 'steal' it dont seem to keep it long. They sell it to the rich who then plant big orange groves.

In a perfect world we stop all encroachment to save whats left, then the govt reforest and protect. 

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