Pri­vate firms still barred from log­ging next year

The Myanmar Times - - News - PYAE THET PHYO KYI KYI SWAY news­room@mm­times.com

THE one-year log­ging ban cur­rently in place may be eased only slightly in the fol­low­ing fi­nan­cial year, with pri­vate tim­ber pro­duc­tion still off the ta­ble, ac­cord­ing to of­fi­cials at the state-run Myanma Tim­ber En­ter­prise.

“We won’t al­low the pri­vate sec­tor to pro­duce tim­ber in the com­ing 20172018 fi­nan­cial year,” said U Nyi Nyi Tun, deputy gen­eral man­ager at the Myanma Tim­ber En­ter­prise’s Plan­ning and Statis­tics Depart­ment.

In a bid to curb de­for­esta­tion and al­low re-growth, the gov­ern­ment im­ple­mented a na­tion­wide ban on log­ging for the 2016-17 fi­nan­cial year. Ma­jor forested ar­eas, like the moun­tain ranges in Rakhine, Shan and Kachin states, were in­cluded in the sus­pen­sion. A log­ging ban of 10 years will be main­tained in the Bago Yoma range.

While the whole­sale ban looks to be lifted next year, heavy re­stric­tions will re­main in place with pro­duc­tion only per­mis­si­ble by the Myanma Tim­ber En­ter­prise, which falls un­der the um­brella of the Min­istry of Nat­u­ral Re­sources and En­vi­ron­men­tal Con­ser­va­tion.

The Myanma Tim­ber En­ter­prise said it has enough log­ging ele­phants to pro­duce the amount of tim­ber that ex­trac­tion will be capped at.

“If we don’t have enough ele­phants, we will hire a few from pri­vate com­pa­nies. But we won’t be giv­ing pri­vate com­pa­nies full li­cences for car­ry­ing out ex­trac­tion like be­fore,” U Nyi Nyi Tun said.

Pro­duc­tion next year will likely be limited to 60 per­cent of the typ­i­cal an­nual al­lowance, said U Aye Cho Thaung, deputy direc­tor of the Myanma Tim­ber En­ter­prise.

There are about 19,000 teak trees and 530,000 other hard­wood trees for po­ten­tial log­ging next fis­cal year, he added. Each teak tree is ca­pa­ble of pro­duc­ing up to 1.5 tonnes of tim­ber, but pro­duc­tion will be restricted to just 15,000 tonnes of teak and 350,000 tonnes of hard­wood.

“We will not be pro­duc­ing more than that. MTE will cut only the tim­ber that is marked for re­moval by the Forestry Depart­ment,” said U Aye Cho Thaung.

The lu­cra­tive log­ging in­dus­try had long fu­elled rapid de­for­esta­tion and en­dan­gered one of Myan­mar’s once abun­dant and most valu­able nat­u­ral re­sources. Myan­mar is the third-worst coun­try in the world for de­for­esta­tion, ac­cord­ing to the UN Food and Agri­cul­ture Or­ga­ni­za­tion, with for­est cov­er­age hav­ing shrunk from 65pc of the coun­try’s land mass in 2000 to 42.92pc in 2015.

De­for­esta­tion am­pli­fies the coun­try’s cli­mate-change vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties by con­tribut­ing to the degra­da­tion of wa­ter­sheds, fa­cil­i­tat­ing soil ero­sion that al­lows run-off and flood­ing, and in­ter­fer­ing with the nat­u­ral car­bon cy­cle.

With the ban in place this fis­cal year, the Myanma Tim­ber En­ter­prise has con­tin­ued to sell ex­ist­ing stocks of teak and hard­wood to meet the needs of lo­cal fac­to­ries. But ac­cord­ing to watch­dog group the En­vi­ron­men­tal In­ves­ti­ga­tion Agency, the cur­rent stock­piles are enough to last three years.

Un­der Myan­mar law, ex­ports of raw tim­ber have been banned since 2014, but even as the coun­try has sought to clamp down on tim­ber pro­duc­tion, the il­le­gal mar­ket fun­nelling logs to China has only con­tin­ued to grow, ac­cord­ing to EIA. Il­licit tim­ber trade be­tween the two coun­tries is near­ing an all-time high, the group said in a re­port last year.

U Nyi Nyi Kyaw, direc­tor gen­eral of the Min­istry of Nat­u­ral Re­sources and En­vi­ron­men­tal Con­ser­va­tion, has ac­knowl­edged that his min­istry is strug­gling to con­trol the sit­u­a­tion and en­force the ban and the an­nual pro­duc­tion caps. Ev­ery year, Myan­mar seizes from 50,000 to 60,000 tonnes of il­le­gal logs, for an av­er­age of 40,000 tonnes a year over the past 10 years, he said in June.

U Myo Min, direc­tor gen­eral of the Forestry Depart­ment, said a gov­ern­ment re­for­esta­tion plan has only achieved about half of its goal from 1981 to 2016 due to a lack of fund­ing and ded­i­cated hu­man re­sources.

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