Police units under Vietnam’s Ministry of Public Security have discovered an illegal ring that has been exploiting tens of hectares of a forest in the Central Highlands.
The officers, along with police in Lam Dong Province, found an empty piece of land in Bao Loc Commune, Bao Lam District, where hundreds of tree trunks of varying size and species were gathered.
The land covers an area of several hectares and is located in the middle of a local primary forest.
According to Captain Nguyen Van Dat, a police official under the Ministry of Public Security, the forest in the area has been exploited despite the Prime Minister’s recent order to shut down access to all local forests in order to prevent illegal logging.
Initial investigations show that Loc Bac forestry company was granted management of the forest area by the state.
The firm then inked a contract with Thanh Chi Company, allowing the latter to log an area covering 56 hectares without any formal permission from authorities or reports on its environmental effect by the provincial Department of Natural Resources and Environment.
About 70 percent of the forest has been exploited by the company, according to officers.
Another part of the forest was also sold to Thanh Chi Company, which has also been exploited and transformed into a rubber tree plantation.
“The contract between the two firms stated that the forest area was considered ‘poor forest’. However, the area was categorized as primary forest in reality,” Captian Dat stated. “This is a serious violation,” he said.
Poor forests are those with a tree volume of between 10 and 100 cubic meters per hectare.
According to Colonel Phan Thanh Chuong, head of the environmental police force under the Lam Dong Department of Police, specific offences of the involved parties will be determined after forest protection officers finish carrying out their examination and reviewing their files.
“The case should be comprehensively evaluated as the primeval forest cannot be sold for commercial purposes, especially without assessment and approval from competent authorities,” Col. Chuong continued.
Earlier on July 8, 15 illegal loggers were caught red handed smuggling timber into the river basin of the Dong Nai 5 Hydroelectric Plant located in Bao Lam District, Lam Dong Province.