New laws chased to boost afforestation
The government is going ahead with its move to amend the country's dated laws on natural resources, hoping to improve legal measures that will help it achieve an ambitious goal to increase national forest areas to 55% of the country's land by 2037.
"Our forested areas currently stand at 32%," National Resources and Environment Minister Surasak Karnjanarat said.
He expressed confidence the country would see a major jump in forested areas with a stronger state-private cooperation forged by new legal measures and regulations to be introduced to better manage natural resources.
One of the measures is to amend the law to encourage people to plant economically valuable trees, Gen Surasak said, referring to the cabinet resolution to rewrite Section 7 of the 1941 Forestry Act, which currently requires people to ask permission to fell or sell precious trees, even if they are grown on private property.
Once the amended law takes effect, people can make use of precious trees such as teak, phayung (Siamese rosewood) and chingchan (Burmese rosewood) that grow on their land without having to inform the authorities.
The government wants people to plant more such trees and have the freedom to cut them legally, Gen Surasak said.
This economic incentive will help the country increase forest areas and, when the trees are felled, give people a new revenue stream. Changing the Forest Act is just a start, he said.
"The government is stepping up the pace of amending or drafting other laws including the Water Resources Act and the Wild Animal Reservation and Protection Act," Gen Surasak said.
The legal measures will enable the government to meet its goal of expanding forest land, which is part of the 20-year national strategy plan, he said.
The measures are needed to properly manage forest resources. Pristine forests, especially those in national parks, wildlife refuges and watershed areas, must be completely protected against encroachment.
Units that fight bush fires must also work closely with volunteers, officials said.
Some other forest areas will be managed in a way that supports the overall national development, Gen Surasak said, adding that new reservoirs would also be mulled.
Local residents will be allowed to make use of some forest resources under the community forest concept, officials said.
Residents are considered vital assets in terms of caring for the forests, Gen Surasak said.