By Kornrawee Panyasuppakun
The aim was to have conserved forests cover 25 per cent of the country and commercial forests cover the remaining 15 per cent, Ornyupa Sangkamarn, chief of Seub Nakhasathien Foundation’s academic section, said.
She was speaking at an event held in remembrance of leading conservationist Seub Nakhasathien at Bangkok Art and Culture Centre on Sunday.
“To reach this 40 per cent goal, we would need to turn 27 million rai into forests. That is challenging,” she pointed out.
In reality, instead of getting closer to the goal, data collected last year by the Royal Forest Department and Kasetsart University’s Faculty of Forestry showed a slightly downward trend.
Despite an increase in forest cover in other regions of the country, the North lost roughly 90,000 rai (14,400 hectares) or 0.24 per cent of forested land to agriculture. However, it still has the largest green area with 64.21 per cent of the North still covered in forests.
Forest cover in Thailand as a whole has dropped by 18,000 rai compared to 2016. At present, forests cover 31.58 per cent or 102 million rai of the country.
“Over the past five years, the forest cover for Thailand has remained steady at 31 to 32 per cent,” Ornyupa added. “This [18,000-rai loss] is not too worrisome compared to the million rai of forest lost every year from 2008 to 2013.
“For those five to six years, we had cleared up to 5 million rai for agriculture … The goal to cover 40 per cent of the Kingdom with forests can be challenging, but not unattainable.
“And the goal to have 25 per cent of land as conserved forests is within our reach because we have already reached the 23-per-cent mark,” Ornyupa concluded.
However, she said, reforms and better incentives for the private sector are required to increase commercial forested land.
Conserved forests include national parks and wildlife sanctuaries, while commercial forests are privately owned land.
Ornyupa said one incentive to increase commercial forests would be to encourage private landowners to plant and cut valuable trees such as teak and Siamese rosewood on their own land.
She added that the Cabinet has already okayed an amendment to the Forest Act to make this possible. Previously, these trees could not be felled even if they were growing on privately owned land.
“Once the law is enforced, people will be able to grow commercially viable trees so they can be sustainably cut down. This will also decrease illegal logging,” Ornyupa explained.
Siamese rosewood, which takes some 30 years to grow, has a market value of Bt300,000.