VietNamNet Bridge – The Da River regenerated watershed has been seriously
devastated. A paradox exists – that if not having deforestation, people would
have no land to grow industrial trees to escape poverty, but they will violate
the laws if their chop down trees.
The watershed in Chieng Den commune of Son La City has become a “hot spot” of
the deforestation. These are the regenerated forests which need to be protected
and developed in order to create a new lung for the northwestern region, which
was once devastated by illegal lumberjacks.
According to Quang Van Kien, Deputy Chair of Chieng Den commune People’s
Committee, in the past, there were old forests with the ancient trees hundreds
of years old. There were many kinds of hardwood, and different animal species,
from tigers, panthers to deer which lived in big flocks.
However, the area later became the bare hills and mountains. Only when the
provincial authorities kicked off the project on greening the bare hills and
deserted land in 1992, trees began growing up again in the area.
However, the young forests are now, once again, facing a high risk. Young trees
have been plucked by local people.
Kien said that local people began chopping trees in the forests in 2007. “They
have been cutting trees “methodically”, just a little every day, in order to
deceive forest rangers. A lot of hectares of the forests have been cleared over
the last five years.
Prior to that, when starting the afforestation project, the local authorities
organized a lot of meetings to explain people why there should be the forests.
Local people agreed with the local authorities, promising to actively join the
afforestation program. However, they later have broken the promise, destroying
the forests with young trees.
Coffee plants are the “culprits”
Local people rush to devastate the forests to clear site for growing coffee
plants – the industrial plants that are believed to bring higher profits to
The poor people believe that they would make more money if they grow coffee
plants instead of developing forests.
According to Kien, the total area of Chieng Den commune is 6,856 hectares, which
includes 850 hectares of coffee growing area. Kien said in order to have such a
large area for coffee plants, local people might have to spend a lot of years to
In the hamlets of To Lo, Phieng Nghe and Pang, there are the large bare hills
with no blade of grass. Bulldozers were brought to the land area to level the
However, local authorities had not heard anything about the deforestation until
the deforestation got completed.
Nguyen Hanh Minh, Head of the Forest Ranger Unit in Son La City, said coffee
plants are the “culprits” of the deforestation. Growing coffee for higher profit
is the most convincing reason behind the local people’s behavior of deforesting.
Minh said Son La coffee has become well known in the country which can be sold
at high prices. Meanwhile, farmers only get small money for growing trees and
protecting the forests
Leo Van Xuan, Head of the To Lo hamlet, has 3 hectares of coffee. With the
output of 8 tons for every crop, Xuan can earn VND300 million. Meanwhile, he
would get VND400,000 every year for his works of protecting the 3 hectares of
This explains why all the 87 households in To Lo hamlet have been growing coffee