News / Asia

Forests at Risk in Southeast Asia's Lower Mekong Region

A Laotian fisherman casts his net in the Mekong river in Luang Prabang, (File photo).A Laotian fisherman casts his net in the Mekong river in Luang Prabang, (File photo).
x
A Laotian fisherman casts his net in the Mekong river in Luang Prabang, (File photo).
A Laotian fisherman casts his net in the Mekong river in Luang Prabang, (File photo).
Daniel Schearf
Southeast Asia's Lower Mekong region is set to lose a third of its natural forests in the next two decades, according to a report by the Worldwide Fund for Nature.  Forestry experts blame the current pace of deforestation on governments’ undervaluing forestry resources.
 
The Worldwide Fund for Nature report, titled "Ecosystems in the Greater Mekong," said between 1973 and 2009 lower Mekong countries chopped down almost a third of their forests for timber and to clear land for agriculture.  
 
Burma and Laos lost 24 percent of their forest cover. Cambodia lost 22 percent of their forests, while Thailand and Vietnam cleared 43 percent of their trees.
 
"Core forests," a three-kilometer square area of uninterrupted forest, have dropped from 70 to 20 percent of total forest area.
 
The conservation group says the pace of deforestation is accelerating, and countries risk losing a third of their remaining trees by 2030.  
 
Geoffrey Blate is a regional advisor on ecology for the Worldwide Fund for Nature in Bangkok and contributor to the report. He said it appears the overall highest amount of forest clearing happened where there were the most trees -- in Burma, also known as Myanmar.

"It appears that Myanmar, Cambodia, and Laos are really, you know, sort of the hot spots for deforestation right now," he said. "That's where most of the remaining large expanses of forest are and that's where we have seen the highest deforestation rates as well."
 
The report's findings were based on analysis of satellite data and are in contrast to some official figures from those countries.
 
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization reported official country figures in the region show that deforestation rates slowed from 2000-2010.  
 
The Worldwide Fund for Nature says those figures could be misleading, because some countries label agriculture plantations for rubber trees, cassava and palm oil as forested areas.
 
Such practices could be responsible for Vietnam’s claimed increase in forest coverage.
 
Forestry experts said countries in the region fail to place enough value on their forests and look only at the market price for extracted or harvested resources.
 
Thomas Enters is a U.N. regional coordinator for the Asia Pacific.  
 
He said a political commitment is needed at the highest level because the economic incentive is to bring in investors that clear forests.
 
"What they do not value is the biodiversity that is in there and the various ecosystem services, such as soil protection, watershed protection -- basically keeping the water cleaner, keeping sediments in the uplands instead of having them come down, washed into the rivers and into the reservoirs that are basically constructed behind dams," stated Enters.
 
Enters said restrictions on logging in the region only came into place after devastating floods, indicating that natural forest cover is likely to continue going down until countries realize they have lost too much.

You May Like

Captured IS Militants Explain Why They Fought

Fighters from Turkey, Syria tell VOA Kurdish Service what drew them to extremism, jihad More

Security Experts Split on Kenyan Barrier Wall

Experts divided on whether initiative aiming to keep out al-Shabab militants is long-awaited solution or misguided effort More

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Officials say they hope to turn Manila into the next Macau, which has long been Asia’s gambling hub More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More