Friday, August 31, 2007

Vietnam rethinking some logging operations

Trees on Lo Duc Street in Ha Noi. The illegal logging of dalbergia tonkinesis trees in the city has prompted authorities to strengthen the management of the capital’s valuable trees.—VNS Photo Truong Vi

HA NOI — The illegal logging of dalbergia tonkinesis trees in Ha Noi recently has prompted the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development to strengthen the management of the exploitation and consumption of this kind of wood.

By order of the Ministry of Agriculture, the exploitation of dalbergia tonkinesis wood, also known as sua wood in Vietnamese, must be stopped temporarily nation-wide until the ministry issues new instructions concerning both wild and cultivated sua trees.

The Ministry also insists on a temporary cessation of sales and consumption of sua wood.

The decree was issued after a series of illegal logging incidents occurred in the capital, forcing the Ha Noi Party Committee to request relevant offices to verify and determine proper punishment.

An official at the Ha Noi Transport and Public Works Department said that current measures were not strong enough to protect the precious trees in the city.

At present, a fund has been allocated to trim branches, assign numbers and plant new trees. No money is spent on protecting the trees when night falls.

Slight sanctions

Sanctions imposed on violators who chop down green trees in Ha Noi remain too slight. Current punishment is mainly educational.

Nguyen Vu Huu Thanh, director of Ha Noi Green Park Company warned that illegal loggers would not give up their lucrative practice so easily. Thanh believes that it will take more than an official document asking officials such as people’s committees, forest rangers, transport and public works departments to protect sua trees.

According to the office manager of Viet Nam Forest Products and Wood Association Office Trinh Vi, sua is listed among rare and precious trees in Viet Nam’s red book. The State prohibits the exploitation and use of this tree for commercial purposes.

Statistics released by the Ha Noi Transport and Public Works Department show there are about 1,250 sua trees on 360 streets in 9 inner districts. Their ages span from 8 to 50 years old.

The biggest tree is 60cm in diameter, and the smallest is between 5cm and 7cm. Almost half of sua trees measure 30cm and upward in diameter.

The Ha Noi Green Park Company, in collaboration with police forces also buckled down to protect the existing population of sua in Ha Noi. The company said it would move small trees to a nursery to protect them.

Upon hearing the news, recently released by the local media, surprised Hanoians have become curious about the illegal logging of the trees. The illegally logged sua is allegedly worth a billion dong.

A sua wood trader, Vu Van Tuan, confessed to the police in Ha Noi’s Dong Da District that he was in cahoots with two other people to illegally chop down a sua tree in Dong Da District. He said he had sold the tree to a Chinese trader for VND100 million. Tuan said he had earned VND30 million in profit.

In another case, the Tuan Chinh Commune People’s Committee in Vinh Phuc northern province’s Vinh Tuong District sold three sua trees for about VND1.3 billion, each nearly 20 years old. The communal committee sold these trees to make space to upgrade its grounds.


A Hanoian researcher, Bang Son, provided a historic document about ancient Ha Noi stating that sua wood was very popular choice for the wooden furniture which once decorated the imperial palaces of the royal and rich families during China’s Minh dynasty.

According to Son, the aged pith of sua, usually over 100 years old, is most commonly used for furniture. The wood fibre of sua wood is smooth, either stiff or soft, and its veins are beautiful. It also has a slight perfume.

Many sua trees grow in the botanical garden. The trees are also found in the streets of Phan Dinh Phung, Tran Hung Dao, and Hoang Hoa Tham.

Sua is usually in bloom after the Lunar New Year festival, from the end of January to early February. The tree’s leaves are slightly green, and the flowers have small white petals. When the flowers fall from the trees they look like falling snow.

Many Hanoians would like to keep this unique and beautiful tree as more than just a memory. — VNS