Published: Wednesday 15 September 1999

The country's forest cover has shrunk by a third in the last 15 years due to illegal logging, slash-and-burn farming methods and felling of trees to make way for plantation crops, according to forest officials.

A study by Vietnam Forestry Scientific Institute (vfsi) reveals that natural forest now covers 28 per cent of the country, falling from 14 million hectares in 1983 to just over nine million by the end of last year. The study has also blamed deforestation for the massive flooding in the central south coast province of Binh Thuan. The floods have claimed scores of lives, destroyed thousands of homes and ruined more than 15,000 hectares of crops in the past week. "Reforestation policy is usually a reaction to natural disasters like flooding. Today, Vietnam has certainly recognised the link and in the past two years has put reforestation very high on its list of priorities," said David Hulse, of the World Wide Fund for Nature.

A crackdown on illegal logging since the beginning of 1999 has resulted in the conviction of at least 34 people.

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