Stronger cooperation needed to save native forests in Asia-Pacific – UN agency

19 April 2004

With illegal logging, forest fires and invasive tree species threatening native forests in the Asia-Pacific region, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) today called for stronger regional cooperation to remedy the situation.

With illegal logging, forest fires and invasive tree species threatening native forests in the Asia-Pacific region, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) today called for stronger regional cooperation to remedy the situation.

At the start of a five-day Asia-Pacific Forestry Commission meeting in Nadi, Fiji, FAO also stressed the need to ensure the role of forests in poverty alleviation, biodiversity conservation and ensuring clean water.

Most countries in the region have developed well-defined policies and innovative tools for sustainable forestry, but since they often lack the capacity for effective implementation, overall progress remains slow, according to the agency.

"It is encouraging to see that the concept of sustainable forestry is increasingly gaining ground in the Asia-Pacific region," said Hosny El-Lakany, FAO Assistant Director-General for Forestry. "We see regional collaboration as a key force behind the progress that is being made."

The agency brings countries in the region together every two years to discuss common forest problems and policy issues, seek solutions, and learn from each other's experiences. Representatives of more than 30 States are expected to attend this year. Among the most pressing issues they will discuss are illegal logging, forest fires and forest rehabilitation.

At the outset, FAO called for stronger regional cooperation in managing forest fires and in controlling invasive tree species, which are introduced and then spread, behaving like weeds and threatening the survival of native species.

The total natural forest area in the region is estimated at 585 million hectares. About 2.5 million hectares of natural forest were cleared annually in the past decade. The region has suffered significant losses because of forest fires and illegal logging.

In the 1990s, seven countries lost more than 10 per cent of their forest cover: Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines and Sri Lanka. But there has also been some progress in reducing deforestation, Mr. El-Lakany said.

On the positive side, eight nations increased their forest cover in the same period, and the region leads the world in creating new forests. The majority of industrial wood production in the region is now coming from plantation forests, according to FAO.

 

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