New forestation plan to slash costs

New forestation plan to slash costs

Aims to increase greenery by 25%

The Royal Forest Department is introducing a new forest plantation model that it says can cut costs to a tenth of what they are now, while also creating more green space.

Attapon Charoenchansa, the department's director-general, said the new model will be tested on 306,017 rai of land across 13 provinces.

The plan is part of the government's 20-year national strategic plan to increase the amount of forested area to 55%, against the current rate of 30%.

These areas are public property but are occupied by communities that received state permits to reside there.

The new model was introduced after the department realised that its current forestation budget and model was not achieving enough, said Mr Attapon.

At an expense of 10,960 baht per rai to plant and maintain trees, the department spent almost 900 million baht in total planting trees across 800,000 rai of land in the last fiscal year.

Despite the budget, the rate of forested land in Thailand has been decreasing -- a trend which Mr Attapon blames on landless villagers who reoccupy the newly-planted forests.

"So we have to change our role from forest growers to sprout providers. The locals will help us plant the trees on the allocated land. They will benefit economically from those trees, and the country will have a greater number of trees to improve the environment, he said.

The new model will be much cheaper and solve issues with trespassing. It will cost the department only 1,000 baht per rai, and the money will be spent on growing sprouts to give to local communities.

Under the plan, villagers must comply with the "20% rule". In practice, each community must earmark 20% of their land to plant three types of trees. The first kind are pricey native trees that already exist in nature, such as teak, rosewood and rubber trees, which villagers won't be able to cut down.

The second type are the "economic trees" that villagers can cut down for personal projects. These trees must, however, be replanted right away. The third type are edible trees.

So far, the department has prepared 5.06 million sprouts for the trial phase in these 13 provinces. The department has also considered doubling the number of sprouts to 100 million at a cost of 2.9 baht per unit by next year. They expect that the trial phase can create over 5 million rai of forested area.

If completed, Mr Attapon said the model might be used to reforest the land that the government gave to poor communities.

The recent military-appointed government introduced the government's land allocation scheme, which earmarks 1.21 million rai of public land in degraded forest to give to villagers in a bid to reduce income inequality and solve the problem of landlessness. The plan excludes national parks and wildlife sanctuaries. So far, the Royal Forest Department has granted people 591,209 rai across 55 provinces.

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