August 19, 2016

Efforts to curb illegal logging in Bago Region undermined

Local police and forest rangers seize illegal timber in Bago.
Local police and forest rangers seize illegal timber in Bago.

IN just four months since the new NLD-lead government came to office, legal action has been taken against over 300 individuals for illegal logging, and more than 1,800 tons of illegally logged timber has been confiscated, within Bago Region, says the local Department of Forestry.
A total of 128 vehicles were caught illegally transporting the confiscated timber, which is reportedly comprised of over 700 tons of teak, 500 tons of hardwood and 600 tons of other miscellaneous varieties of wood.
“Our crackdown on illegal logging activities in the region gathered pace during the new government’s 100 day projects initiative. In comparison with last year, the magnitude of confiscated timber was similar, but the number of vehicles caught transporting it has doubled. The reason for this can be analysed as illegal loggers using a variety of ways to evade the authorities by changing up their methods of transportation; smaller loads transported more frequently with smaller, less attention-drawing vehicles,” said U Zaw Win Myint, director of the Department of Forestry for Bago Region.
Aided by the Bago regional government, a concerted effort was made by government departments concerned to collect information on, and to reveal the whereabouts of illegal logging activities in the region; before conducting parameter sweeps in large groups to arrest, and press legal charges, against the perpetrators.
“Illegal logging is carried out by gangs, known for their hostilities towards staff of the forestry department,” continued U Zaw Win Myint. “It’s difficult to root-out the criminals who orchestrate illegal logging as they don’t partake in it personally, instead getting local residents to do their dirty work for them. Alternatively livelihood initiatives should be created for villagers who survive off their involvement in illegal logging.”
The ineffectiveness of the law to mitigate the easy availability of unlicensed cars, motorcycles and chainsaws is reportedly to be the among the main causes which allow illegal logging to continue unhindered.
“We proposed, to regional government, for an increase in forest security, police vehicles and man power in order to better crack down on illegal logging activities. The trading of unlicensed chainsaws is being closely monitored. Plans are also in place to conduct a series of surprised inspections [on areas where logging activities are taking place], and to conduct educational awareness campaigns with the general public in a bid to persuade them to play a part in helping tackle the problem,” said U Kyaw Min, Bago Region Natural Resources, Forestry and Environmental Conservation Minister.
According to Section 43(a) of the 1992 enacted Forestry Law, anybody caught logging or transporting teak wood, or in possession of illegally logged teak, can face either seven years in prison, a fine of K50,000, or both. While Section 42(b) of the same laws stipulates those caught transporting or in possession of other forbidden timber, without a permit, could find themselves with either a two year prison sentence, a K20,000 fine, or both.


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