Timely stitches could save Myanmar forests

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  • Aye Min Soe
  • The Union Government has taken further steps to prevent illegal logging in Myanmar forest reserves, in an attempt to remove itself from the list of top countries in the world that are most rapidly depleting their forests.
    Logging has been banned for 10 years in the Bago Yoma Mountain Range, with planting and conservation also being carried out in the area. The Union Government has also given a nod to the Forest Department to carry out its 10-year master plan, allocating a large chunk of the national budget to fund the replenishment effort.
    But employees of the Forest Department cannot succeed in their drive to prevent and reverse deforestation nationwide without the participation of the people.
    The recent seizure of 33 tonnes of teakwood found in two containers at a port in Yangon was a wake-up call for authorities about the illegal, but thriving business.
    According to Forest Department statistics, a total of 40,568 tonnes of illegal wood have been seized between April and January in the 2016-2017 fiscal year.
    It was found that all routes for smuggling illegal hardwood now lead to the commercial city of Yangon, where they once led to Kachin and northern Shan State.
    It is obvious that a new route is being used to export illegally cut hardwood to avoid authorities in the north who are looking for violators.
    Illegal vehicles and chainsaws used in the illegal business have posed challenges to law enforcement forces. This is because drivers have no problem abandoning their vehicles that are carrying illegal wood when they are intercepted by the authorities and their cargo is confiscated. The price of an illegal vehicle, usually with no license, is much, much lower than the millions of kyats that can be made by selling the valuable hardwood.
    Law enforcement forces are faced with a nearly impossible task. It is difficult for the authorities to check every vehicle on suspicion of the smuggling of wood as they have to also take the smooth flow of commodities into consideration when carrying out their duty to find the forest products hidden under other commodities.
    And chainsaws, popular for loggers to illegally cut down trees in Myanmar, are also blamed for the quick depletion of forests in the country. In response, authorities have been stepping up efforts to crack down the sale of the chainsaws.
    Seizing illegal forest products is considered good news, but, looked at from a different perspective, we have already lost trees in the forests that took hundreds of years to grow.
    The old expression “A stitch in time saves nine” refers to the prompt sewing up of a small hole or tear in a piece of material, thus saving the need for more stitching at a later date. Prevention is better than arresting smugglers and confiscating logs. The participation of the people is playing a critical role in the country’s reforestation drive.
    We are all obliged to preserve our forests for our posterity and for future generations. Intervene early before the trees are cut, and eventually save an entire forest.
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