Forest Protection in Lam Dong Province in 1997 by Stefan Gorzula, Al Picardi and Vu~ Ho^`ng
7 February 1998
Note: Click mouse on image to enlarge. Photographs a to i were taken in 1997. Photographs j and k were taken in 1995.
Lam Dong Province is a highland province on the West Highland of Viet Nam (Tay Nguyen), lying between latitudes 11 and 13 degrees North and longitudes 107° and 109° East longitude. Elevations range from 300 m to 2,900 m above sea level. The mean annual temperatures range from 21° C in the lowlands to 17°C in the highlands. The rainfall is from 1600 mm to 3000 mm per year. Lam Dong Province covers 10,172.6 km2, with 70% being forest land with wood reserves of more than 30,000,000 m3. In addition, there are more than 100,000 ha of natural pine forest and 150,000 ha of bamboo forest. The area of land which can be used for agriculture consists of more than 200,000 ha of red soil and 50,000 ha of alluvial soil. The major cash crops include coffee, tea, silk, fruits and vegetables, and flowers. As of 1997, about 750,000 people live in Lam Dong Province.
|a) "For a happy life you have to protect the environment."||b) "All people should support the Green, Clean and Beautiful campaign for Da Lat City"||c) "Will our country remain green, clean and beautiful? This will depend upon your actions!"|
Lam Dong Province has had many changes in its administrative boundary. In 1899, a French Plenipotentiary established the Haut-Dongnai Province comprising the area of Tuyenduc-Lamdong and Dinh Quan district. In 1909 Haut-Dongnai became an administrative unit of Ninh Thuan Province. In 1920, Haut-Dongnai Province was revived and Da Lat township was built. In the same year, the Emperor Bao Dai established the Lam Vien autonomous region, which included Da Lat. In 1941, Lam Vien Province was formed and Da Lat was chosen to be the chief town. In 1945, the people of Lam Vien seized power from the Government. In 1950, the Interzone Resistance Committee decided to join Lam Vien and Haut-Dongnai to form a new Lam Dong Province. That same year, the Emperor Bao Dai established the "Reigning Dynasty Territory" comprising all of the West Highland Region. In 1958, Ngo Dinh Diem's Government set up two new provinces: Lam Long consisted of Di Linh and Bao Loc districts and Tuyen Duc Province which consisted of Da Lat township and Don Duong, Duc Trong and Lac Duong districts. in 1966, Da Lat was separated from Tuyen Duc Province and ruled directly by the Central Government. After reunification in 1975, Thuan Lam Province was established comprising 5 old provinces: Lam Dong, Tuyen Duc, Ninh Thuan, Binh Thuan and Binh Tuy. Da Lat remained under Central Government. In the beginning of 1976, the current Lam Dong Province was formed out of the old Lam Dong and Tuyen Duc provinces and Da Lat City. Since then, several new districts were joined into Lam Dong Province at the end of the 1970's and during the early 1980's.
Before 1900, the population of Haut-Dongnai was very small. The principal ethnic groups were K'Ho, Ma, Churu and M'nong. After the founding of Da Lat, many Kinh migrated to the area. By 1937, the population of Haut-Dongnai had risen to about 60,000 persons of whom 10,000 lived in Da Lat. After August 1945, many people returned to their old homelands which resulted in a significant decrease in the population. In 1946 the population of Da Lat had dropped to 5,283.
During the "Nine Year Resistance" (1945 to 1954) the increase in the population was mainly due to natural growth. When peace was temporarily reestablished in 1954, a small part of the population of Lam Dong went North, but a great many people migrated from the North to the South and the population of Lam Dong increased suddenly.
After 1975, with the "policy of building up new economic regions", another significant change in the population of Lam Dong occurred. These new migrations resulted in the province's population increasing at a much faster rate than that of Viet Nam in general. About three quarters of a million people now live in Lam Dong Province.
|d) "Saving a tree will save a forest and save the natural resources of our country."|
The number of minority ethnic groups living in Lam Dong Province is more than 30. In 1979, the percentage of minority people was 30.46%. This value had declined to 23.59% by 1989. In 1989, the K'Ho made up 55.02% of the minority community of Lam Dong, followed by Ma (13.14%), Chinese (7.42%), Churu (6.91%), Nung (5.64%), Tay (4.37%) and all others (7.50%). For the period of 1979 to 1989 the percentage of Kinh increased from 69.54% to 76.41% mainly due to migration of people from other regions to build up the so-called "New Economic Regions".
In 1997, more than 95% of ethnic minority residents in Lam Dong Province were loaned capital from the provincial budget to develop to develop farming and family based economies. Ethnic minority people planted 803.6 ha of coffee using the capital, as well as growing sugar cane, rice, cashews and durians.
There are two factors that make the prediction of future population trends somewhat uncertain.
The first is the unregistered immigration from other parts of Viet Nam into Lam Dong Province. In 1997, about 5,089 ha of forests were illegally settled in Lam Dong Province. Most of the cases occurred in the Da Lat area. Provincial officials reported that they had settled 5,838 cases of forest violations, and seized back 31 ha of forests during 1997. Within the whole of Lam Dong Province, it is estimated that there are about 40,000 uncontrolled migrants. In order to deal with this problem, the Department for Immigrants in Lam Dong Province has developed 28 projects, including schools and roads, to help settle these people. Costing VND 7 billion (US$ 635,000), the projects have 52 classrooms, 47.6 km of roads, and 46 bridges.
The second factor is the "free" emigration for economic reasons of people from Lam Dong Province to Ho Chi Minh City and the industrial zones around Bien Hoa in Dong Nai Province. For 1997, it was estimated that 1,000,000+ unregistered migrants were in Ho Chi Minh City and 280,000 in Dong Nai Province. Of these migrants about 70% are 15-29 years old and 51.4% are male. Their average per capita income is VND 720,000 (US$ 65) per month which is nearly double the average of VND 368,000 (US$ 33) per month received in their home villages. Many send about 30% of their income to their families. In the future, these migrations could result in a general depopulation of the rural areas. Such a phenomenon has occurred in other developing countries. For example, in Venezuela between 1965 and 1975 the population changed from being 80% rural to 80% urban.
Population Growth Control
The Report on Socio-economic Development Orientations and Tasks for the Five-year 1996-2000 Period presented by the Seventh Party Central Committee at the Eighth National Party Congress of the Communist Party of Vietnam in Hanoi on 28 June-1 July 1996, calls for the population growth rate to be brought under 1.8% per annum by the year 2000.
Based upon Decree No 305/QD-TCUB dated 4 May 1984 of the People's Committee of Lam Dong Province, a Committee for population and birth control activities was formed in 1984. Following the Decree No 930/QD-UB-TC of the People's Committee of the Province dated 4 June 1991 and the enactment No 193/HDBT of the Head of the Council of Ministers, the Population and Birth Control Committee of Lam Dong Province was perfected. At a lower administrative level, Da Lat City and all the districts and communes have their own organization to carry out activities in the field of birth control. Da Lat City and all the districts usually have had 1 or 2 persons working full time and for the communes there have been 2 or 3 people working part time in this field.
At the provincial level the Committee has joined with public services such as Health Care Services, Culture-Information-Sport Services, Radio and Television Stations and Local Newspapers to go to the remote areas where the minority people live to examine the health of the people, to talk about the need for birth control and to teach people how to use different methods of contraception.
The Committee has also joined with the Provincial Department of Culture, Information and Sport, the Youth League, the Local Radio Broadcasting Station and the Local Newspaper in producing propaganda programs and organizing some theatrical festivals about the theme of population and birth control.
The Committee has also combined its activities with the Youth League, Women's Organization, Peasants' Organization and the Labour Union of the Province to organize a study of programs VDS-1, VDS-2 and VDS-3 and to implement measures of contraception throughout the whole province.
|e) "Protecting the environment is the duty of everyone."||f) Bilingual environmental notice.||g) "Everyone should cooperate with controlling fires and protecting the forests."|
Under Articles 33, 34 and 35 of the Land Law (National Assembly of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, Session 3, Legislature IX, June 16th - July 14th, 1993), the People's Committees of urban and rural communes, and commune towns are required to establish and manage cadastral books, and register in cadastral book all unused land and changes in land use. They are required to carry out land statistics annually and land inventory every five years. Each land management office is required to report the results of land statistics and land inventory to the immediately higher land management office. Thus, land use information for any area within Viet Nam is available at the district, provincial and central levels. Viet Nam probably has the most advanced, detailed and updated system for monitoring land use of any country in the World. Recent studies using satellite imagery have confirmed the accuracy of the land use statistics of Lam Dong Province.
Development plans are prepared for periods of five years. The current one covers 1996 to 2000. The next will be for the years 2001 to 2005. The five-year plans are prepared one year in advance, and the annual implementation plans are prepared six months in advance.
The Central Government sets out the national policy for development. For the current five-year period the policy was established in the Report on Socio-economic Development Orientations and Tasks for the Five-year 1996-2000 Period that was presented by the Seventh Party Central Committee at the Eighth National Party Congress of the Communist Party of Vietnam in Hanoi on 28 June-1 July 1996.
The provincial plans, which follow the orientation of the Central Government, were prepared by the Department of Land, the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, the Department of Construction, the Department of Information and Transport and the Department of Investment and Planning. Each plan had to be approved by the Chairman of Lam Dong Province.
Finance for development comes from both the central and the provincial authorities.
|h) Mr Cat Quoc Khanh, Head of the Division of Forestry of Lam Dong Province, with a land use map of the province showing national parks (red), protection forests (dark blue), production forest (light blue) and agricultural land (yellow).|
As of early September 1997, about 2,280 ha of cash crops were newly planted in Lam Dong Province, including coffee, cashew nuts, white mulberry and tea. This figure is 975 ha above the yearly plan. The total area of cash crops has now reached 72,910 ha or 7.17%.
As of October 1997, Lam Dong's Agricultural Bank had mobilized VND 233 billion (US$ 21,200,000) from various local capital sources. The bank has loaned VND 174 billion (US$ 15,800,000) to 17,620 local farmer households, which is equivalent to an average loan of US$ 900 per household. In addition, 18 credit funds have been put into operation attracting 13,000 local residents. The credit funds have regulated capital of more than VND 8 billion (US$ 727,000) and mobilized capital of VND 50 billion (US$ 4,545,000). Some 10,000 members have been loaned capital to create jobs and develop their family-based economy.
During 1997, Lam Dong Province also implemented 130 projects worth more than VND 6.4 billion (US$ 580,000) loaned from the National Fund for Job Promotion. The projects have attracted 3,200 laborers. The provincial Department of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs has also opened job training classes for 1,641 people and organized jobs for another 818 laborers.
Lam Dong Province is one of the four provinces which make up the Tay Nguyen (Central Highlands). The other provinces are Gia Lai, Dac Lac and Kon Tum. In the years 1996-97 they received development project investment worth VND 6,989 billion (US$ 635,000,000). This represents 47.8% of the total investment projected for the Central Highlands between 1996-2000. The investment has resulted in a higher annual per capita income which rose from US$ 168 in 1995 to US$ 242 in 1997. This is US$ 2 higher than the rate set for the year 2000. Total Gross Domestic Product increased by 14% in 1996 and is estimated at 12.58% for 1997, or 5.5% and 3.38% higher than the national average for the same period. Exports from the region for 1997 are estimated at US$ 285,000,000. Per capita export value is estimated at US$ 80.2 as compared with the national average of US$ 120. Within the Tay Nguyen the number of families facing poverty and hunger dropped from 30.8% in 1995 to 29.4% in 1996.
General Programs for Environmental Protection
The Government's Investment Development Policy for the Central Highlands was introduced in early 1996. Today the four provinces have a combined population of 3.14 million people, against 1.19 million in 1975. About 1.6 million settlers moved into the region in the past 22 years. The economic boom has cost so much forest that the then Prime Minister Vo Van Kiet conceded, during a tour of the Central Highlands in July 1996, that the ecosystem had been more heavily damaged than he had imagined. He subsequently issued a decree (Tay Nguyen Development Program) ordering a halt to forest destruction and free immigration to these four provinces. The program, set for 1997-2000, includes provisions to mobilize more funds to help the people of Tay Nguyen develop cash crops; plant trees and build new settlements to minimize the customary slash-and-burn methods of nomadic farmers.
At the end of November 1997, the National Assembly outlined its plans for a national development project to plant 5,000,000 trees on barren hills throughout Viet Nam. This project was not approved by the outgoing National Assembly in May 1997 because the delegates said that the project was not presented with sufficient supporting feasibility studies.
Forestry Office of Lam Dong Province
Lam Dong Province covers 10,172.6 m2, with 70% being forestry land with wood reserves of more than 30,000,000 m3. Of the total forestry land in Lam Dong Province, about 70% is national parks and protection forests and 30% is production forest.
In October 1997 the Forestry Office of Lam Dong Province had a staff of approximately 1,000. Of these 92% are based in field offices and 8% are in Da Lat.
According to Mr Cat Quoc Khanh, Head of the Forestry Office of Lam Dong Province, their main problems are insufficient logistics, shortage of staff, and lack of funding for policing and enforcement.
In September 1997 the Provincial Forestry Protection and Development Plan was approved at the Provincial level. It is currently being reviewed at Central Government level.
Lam Dong Province is divided into 750 forestry management plots. These units range in size from 700 to 1,500 hectares. Commercial lumber companies operate within many of the "production forest" units. Clear cutting is not permitted. Lumber can can only be extracted from those areas where there is a standing crop of 120 m3/hectare or more. A maximum of 20 m3/hectare of lumber can be selectively extracted.
The heads of forest protection department at all levels have the right to denounce, investigate the criminal in forest management and protection process under the stipulation at Article 93 of law on criminal legitimate and Article 29 of decree to investigate criminal matters, the stipulation at Article 181, 194 and 216 of the criminal laws.
|i) "Forests have functions: barriers against winds and waves, prevent erosion, harmonize climate, limit natural calamities, protect production, bring health to people. To destroy forest is ruinous. The environment is our life."||j) "Destroying estuarine flooded forests is strictly prohibited... It is forbidden to hunt or disturb in any way the wild birds and animals within the administrative boundaries of Ho Chi Minh City." forests."|
At higher elevation in Lam Dong Province forest fires are rare and cause little damage. Prescribed burning is used to maintain a low combustible biomass of annual plants such as grasses. Planted forests are also protected with firebreaks.
Vietnam loses about 60,000 ha of forests annually due to slash and burn farming.
In 1996 it was estimated that there remained more than 46,000 nomadic farmers in Tay Nguyen. The Tay Nguyen provinces have stabilized 12,000 local households in 1997. Sedentary settlement projects in Lam Dong Province worth VND 15.1 billion (US$ 1,370,000), including VND 10 billion from the provincial budget, have been deployed. Lam Dong spent 63.5% of its total investment on agriculture and forestry production, and 22.6% on infrastructure construction. The Tay Nguyen provinces now have 52,000 households in need of sedentary agriculture settlement before the year 2000.
Before 1990 Lam Dong Province was losing an average of 10,000 hectares per year to slash and burn agriculture. Lam Dong Province's Cat Tien National Park has lost more than 500 ha since 1990, including 25 ha in 1997, due to ethnic minorities slash and burn activities for agriculture. A forestry protection program using minority families was established in 1992. Minority families are paid 1,500,000 VND (US$ 136.36) per year to protect a 20 hectare plot of forest. This figure is based on the price of rice. As of October 1997, 3,202 hectares in Duc Trong District and 10,497 hectares in Don Duong District are being protected by 685 minority families through this scheme. The areas have not been expanded due to lack of funding.
Pine Resin Tappers
The natural pine forests in the highlands of Lam Dong Province have been subjected to illegal exploitation of resin for many years. According to Mr Bui Thanh Phong, Deputy Head of the Lam Dong Forest Protection Department, that the resource is now virtually exhausted. In Ta Nang Commune of Duc Trong District scars are visible on most of the trees in the 2,000 hectares of mature stands of pine remaining in that area.
Major Nguyen Van Canh, Deputy Head of the Managerial Board for Forest Protection of Ta Nang Commune, estimates that there are five local smugglers who are tapping the pines. They enter the area on motorbikes and each extract 6 to 10 cans of resin daily. The cans hold about 20 liters each. Farmers in the area can earn an average of VND 20,000 (US$ 1.81) per day through regular farming, whereas the pine resin smugglers can earn up to five times this amount.
The local authorities have been unable to control the smugglers. The Deputy Chairman of the People's Committee of Ta Nang Commune had once attempted to stop them and they had threatened to kill his wife and children. In August 1997, Major Canh and his unit were pursuing a three-man gang of resin smugglers who tried to run over Major Canh with their motorbikes. The local People's Committee subsequently awarded him a "certificate of merit for a heroic act".
|k) Steve Gorzula with a rescued bear at Long Khanh, Dong Nai Province (November 1997).|
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