VietNamNet Bridge – A recent uptick in illegal logging and gold mining operations have affected several mountains and hills located in Phu Ninh lake resort in central Quang Nam Province, one of the largest irrigation reservoirs in Viet Nam and a popular tourist destination.


Phu Ninh lake resort in central Quang Nam Province -- Photo:


Nguyen Xuan Phuoc, director of the Phu Ninh Protected Forest Management Board, told Nong Thong Ngay Nay (Countryside Today) that in the first quarter of this year, the board detected 11 cases of illegal deforestation. It caused damage to more than 6ha of forest.

Most recently in mid-July, the board, along with district police and forest rangers, discovered a group of illegal gold miners. They destroyed the illegal group's gold machines and tools and seized a boat suspected to be the mode of transport for treated ore.

An unnamed representative of Hung Cuong tourism company, an investor in the lake resort, told the newspaper that he worried that gold miners used toxic chemicals to extract gold, contributing to pollution of the lake. This is particularly worrisome to locals as Phu Ninh Lake is the main source of water for residential and agricultural use in Tam Ky Town.

A guide at the lake resort added that illegal gold miners caused considerable damage to Lang Ong Nghe Mountain, located in the lake resort area. They brought machines to the mountains to dig for gold ore and even built a dam to collect water to filter treated gold ore. They discharged the water directly back into the environment, polluting the lake's water source.

Illegal logging also takes place in the area, though intermittently, making it difficult to protect the precious trees.

Since the beginning of this year, the management board said they noticed many ancient trees were illegally cut down. The loggers only use the tree trunks and leave the treetops behind.

To stop illegal logging, local rangers have doubled their efforts, making rounds of the forest day and night. However, loggers still manage to take advantage of the darkness to flee, sometimes leaving the wood behind.

"While we tried hard to preserve the tourism area, it has been severely destroyed by illegal loggers and miners. We wish there had been stricter control by the Phu Ninh Protected Forest Management Board," the company's representative said in response to efforts.

Board Director Phuoc said, "despite our efforts, we cannot chase and capture all illegal poachers and miners because the area is too big. We have only five staff to work as forest wardens here."

A staff shortage is one of the biggest challenges to local protection authorities. The lake has an area of 23,400ha, making it hard to patrol it all. Illegal loggers also often carry the timber across the water at night, making it further difficult for local rangers to catch them.

He said he also regrets the limited authority of the Phu Ninh Protected Forest Management Board.

"When we detect the illegal poachers and gold miners, we can only make a report and transfer it to the police or to local foresters. Two years ago, we sent a request to set up a forest ranger station for the Phu Ninh Protected Forest Management Board. But we are still waiting for the answer," Phuoc says.

The Phu Ninh lake resort, completed in 1986, houses a great variety of animal and plant life currently on Viet Nam's Red Data Book. It is an important area helping to conserve hundreds of plants and precious herbs. The lake was recently awarded with national historical heritage status.