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ASIA’S FOREST LOSS


1 April, 2016

Five Asian countries have lost nearly one-third of their forests in the last 35 years and could be left with little more than 10-20 per cent of their original forest cover by 2030, according to an international conservation group, World Wide Fund (WWF).

Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar Laos and Vietnam have lost nearly 40m hectares of forest cover since 1980 but have retained about 98m ha of natural forest, just over half of the region's land area. Thailand and Vietnam, in particular, have suffered the most forest destruction; each losing 43% of their forest cover. Using satellite data, the WWF’s analysis reveals the Greater Mekong has retained about 98 million hectares of natural forest, just over half of the region’s land area, but further rapid loss is expected if current deforestation rates persist.

While the five countries of the Greater Mekong lost vast forest area, Cambodia lost 22 per cent of its 1973 forest cover, Laos and Myanmar lost 24 per cent, and Thailand and Vietnam lost 43 per cent between 1973 and 2009. If current trends continue, the WWF predicts, by 2030 only 14 per cent of the greater Mekong's remaining forest will consist of contiguous habitat capable of sustaining viable populations of many wildlife species.

However there is good news.

While the five Asian countries have lost vast areas of primary forest in the last 30 years, many have replanted large areas. Vietnam, for example, has regenerated 10m ha and planted 3.5m ha.  The report offers two scenarios for the region’s ecosystems. One predicts what will likely happen by 2030 under an unsustainable growth model in which the deforestation and degradation observed over the past decade persists, while the other scenario assumes a 50 per cent cut in the annual deforestation rate and offers a future based on green growth. Under the green economy scenario, core forest areas extant in 2009 across the five Greater Mekong countries would remain intact.

WOOD ENERGY CONSUMPTION:

One of the major socioeconomic benefits provided by forests is the use of wood as a source of energy. Some 840 million people, or 12 per cent of the world’s population, collect wood fuel and charcoal for their own use. Wood energy is often the only energy source to poor people in many parts of less developed countries. Worldwide wood fuel from forests provides 496 MTOE of energy and the forest processing sector produces an additional 277 MTOE of energy, to give a total of 772 MTOE. This accounts for about 6 per cent of total primary energy supply (TPES).

Wood energy makes the greatest contribution to TPES in Latin America and the Caribbean and in Africa. It accounts for 27 per cent of TPES in Africa, 13 per cent in Latin America and the Caribbean. In Asia and Oceania, wood energy  only accounts for about 5 per cent of TPES, but with about two-thirds of the total coming from the use of wood fuel (particularly in China, India and Indonesia). Over all, the highest proportion of households using wood fuel for cooking is in Africa, followed by Asia and Oceania, then Latin America and the Caribbean. 

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