Many forest rangers in the central province of Quang Binh have quit due to low pay and increased danger.
Forest rangers quit en mass due to low wages
With forest coverage of 67%, Quang Binh ranks second among provinces with highest forest coverage in Vietnam. However, forest destruction problem has become more serious in the past years. Illegal loggers not only destroy the protective forest but they also find ways to enter and destroy the Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park. Dozens of loggers, forest rangers and officials have been prosecuted and punished but the problem is still severe.
Since early 2019, Quang Binh Forest Protection Unit has discovered 640 violations, seized over 455 cubic metres of woods and contributed over VND5.5bn (USD237,000) to the state budget. In late 2018, early 2019, the illegal loggers chopped down 66 valuable trees in Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park. Another notable case occurred in Truong Son Commune where 45 valuable trees were chopped down.
The local police have detained, punished and prosecuted 18 people for forest destruction including the head of a forest ranger unit, the head of a forest protection station and seven employees at Con Roang Border Station.
As the illegal logging activities become more complicated, the pressure on the forest rangers has also increased. According to a forestry company, in the past, most forest ranger salaries came from forest exploitation. But after the government shut down such activities, the companies have had to rely on funds for forest protection and preservation, which is not enough to pay everyone's salaries.
Ho Trong Binh, head of the forest protection station of Truong Son State Forest Enterprise, said he had worked in this field for 25 years and they had had many difficulties due to lack of personnel and large forest area. Their authority is also lacking so not many people want to stay.
Long Dai Forestry Company is allocated nearly 50,000ha of forest land. It used to have 150 guards but now only 76 guards remain. Over 10 guards quit their jobs after working at Truong Son SFE and Khe Giua SFE. The monthly wage is around VND3m (USD130) to VND5m which is not enough to make ends meet.
"The pressure we face is huge yet our salaries are low and late. Sometimes, we have to wait for months to receive salaries," said Nguyen Tri Phuong, an employee at Khe Giua SFE.
The companies also find it hard to recruit more guards. Tran Quang Dam, director of Bac Quang Binh Forestry Company, said even though they had issued many policies to attract new guards but the results were not great.
Le Minh Ngan, vice chairman of Quang Binh Province People's Committee, admitted that there were many difficulties. A company has to be profitable, yet because it is a state firm it also functions as a forest ranger unit. There are many problems with the authority they have been given and their responsibilities. Natural forest protection responsibilities should be transferred to the protection forest management board. Dtinews