VIENTIANE, Lao PDR, March 24, 2011 - Earlier this month, law enforcement officers of the Department of Forest Inspection, seized 33 tractor-trailers containing an estimated 660 m3 of illegally harvested timber and wood products. The estimated value of the wood seizure is $250,000 USD at destination. The investigation is ongoing. “The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry is extremely concerned with any illegal activities that threaten the environment in Laos. The Department of Forest Inspection sees the priority in implementation of enforcement initiatives that focus on prevention and detection of activities that threaten forest and wildlife resources”, said Director General of Department of Forest Inspection Mr. Phoumy Phoumanivong.
Forests are very significant for Lao PDR – as much as 80% of the population relies on the forests for income, food, shelter, herbal medicine and other resources. Illegal logging is a challenge faced by many countries in Southeast Asia due to the presence of valuable timber species. The World Bank estimates the annual global market value of losses from illegal cutting of forests at over US$10 billion, and annual losses in revenues of about US$5 billion. Illegal logging depletes forests and destroys the habitats of endangered species. Failures of forest governance – characterized by illegal logging, associated illegal trade and corruption – undermine attempts to achieve sustainable economic growth, societal equity, and environmental conservation. Most importantly, it puts at risk poor people who rely on timber and non-timber forest products for their livelihood.
The Government of Lao PDR has been in the forefront of addressing challenges associated with sustainable forest management. It has developed a forest law enforcement strategy going out to 2020 to meet the challenge of illegal logging through increased community awareness and improvement of monitoring systems. “The Government of Lao PDR has done well in recent years building an effective law enforcement program. The enforcement of the legal framework is often not easy, but this seizure is a clear demonstration of the Government’s commitment to combat illegal logging. I would like to congratulate the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry and the Department of Forest Inspection for their efforts in combating illegal logging and corruption in the forestry sector. This is critical for sustainable forest management”, said Keiko Miwa, World Bank Country Manager in Lao PDR.
The World Bank has been working with the Government for the last 10 years to assist in improving forest management and protection. Together with the Finnish Government, the World Bank is implementing the Sustainable Forestry for Rural Development (SUFORD) project.
What is SUFORD?
SUFORD is a multilateral cooperation project between the Government of Lao PDR, Finland and the World Bank. The overall goal of the project is to institute nation-wide systematic forest management which includes specific objectives such as: 1) improve policy, legal and incentive framework enabling the expansion of Participatory Sustainable Forest Management (PSFM) throughout the country, 2) bring the country’s priority natural production forests under PSFM and 3) improve villager’s wellbeing and livelihoods through benefits from sustainable forestry, community development and development of viable livelihood systems.