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Vietnam tightens control over projects that need massive forest clearance
By Thanh Nien News -
 Song Tranh Hydropower Plant in the central province of Quang Nam. Photo: Hua Xuyen Huynh
Vietnam will stop granting licenses to public and commercial projects that take over forest land but do not have a feasible plan to plant new trees, an official said. 
A project will be rejected if it requires a large area of forest to be destroyed or if local authorities cannot find a new area for replanting, Deputy Prime Minister Hoang Trung Hai was quoted as saying in a report on the government website. 
Hai also ordered local governments and related agencies to review current projects and order their investors to pay the costs of reforestation.
The order came after official reports showed that nearly 68,000 hectares of forests have been destroyed so far for a wide range of projects. Only 24 percent of that combined area has been replanted so far.
Public infrastructure projects accounted for half of the destroyed forest area, but most of them failed to plant new trees. Commercial projects managed to return only 22 percent of 20,000 hectares of forests they removed.
Some projects were completed a long time ago, but their investors never had any reforestation plans, the website reported.
Under Vietnam's existing laws, when investors cannot replant forests, they are required to pay the costs of reforestation.
However, official figures showed that investors have so far disbursed just 26.1 percent of their total reforestation pledges of VND262 billion (US$11.54 million).