In Viet Nam, hydropower enterprises are required to compensate for the forest land lost due to hydropower development. However, the rate of reforestation is too slow and does not meet the official requirements, was a conclusion during the workshop “Current Status of and Solutions to Forestland Conversion for Hydropower Plant Development in the Central Zone and Central Highlands of Viet Nam” (25 December 2015, in Hue city Viet Nam). Participants also mentioned that hydropower enterprises don’t fulfil their financial obligations towards forest protection and development.
The workshop, organized by TBI Viet Nam and Hue University of Agriculture and Forestry (HUAF), was attended by representatives from: the Departments of Agriculture and Rural Development; Provincial Departments of Forest Protection; Provincial Departments of Forests; Forest Protection Funds; Provincial Departments of Natural Resources and Environment; and Departments of Industry and Trade of the six provinces of Khanh Hoa, Gia Lai, Kontum, Phu Yen, Binh Dinh, and Quang Nam.
In Kontum province, only 992 out of 3020 ha of trees were planted, just 32% of the plan for 2015. One of the main reasons for this slow progress has been a shortage of land. Noting this, a representative from Kontum province indicated that though a large area of land is considered to be non-forested land on paper, most is owned or encroached by local people therefore land conflicts arise when businesses seek to develop hydropower dams and plant trees as compensation. Moreover, investors in hydropower projects do not include funds for tree planting in their project budgets.
Some recommendations proposed to tackle the difficulties include: to promote a closer cooperation among state agencies at all levels and to formulate clear long-term policies for forest compensation funds and programmes. If provincial funds for forest protection and management are assigned for the implementation of forest plantations, money must be distributed for an effective daily operation. The amount to be contributed by the hydropower enterprises of VND 15 million for reforestation should be increased to 65 million, as it is very low, especially if reforestation must be carried out in mountainous areas.
The ideas contributed by the participants serve as valuable inputs for the TBI Viet Nam’s research group to review and complete their field data, which will in turn serve as a foundation for future policy recommendations.