Joint efforts to restore Thailand's forests

business June 22, 2014 00:00

By Thanapat Kitjakosol
The Natio

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Eco institute calls on key local, foreign firms to help boost forested area to 40%

The Thailand Environment Institute Foundation is targeting an increase in Thailand’s forest area from 22 per cent nationwide to 40 per cent by 2017.
It aims to achieve  this with help from major corporations including Toyota Motor (Thailand ), PTT, Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand,  Ratchaburi Electricity Generating Holding and others.
The foundation has been linked with the corporations since 2008 under a campaign entitled “Eco Forest”.
Dr Sumet Tantivejkul, secretary-general of Chaipattana Foundation, said that Thailand is losing an average of three per cent its forest every year, because of city growth and people clearing trees  to make residences, plantations or paddy fields.
“We lose most trees in the forests to commercial activities. The forest is more important for the environment than to cut it for commercial use only,” he said.
Rehabilitation of the forest is the way to return it to the country. However, growing it must be done in an effective way, he added.
“I have seen some people grow the tree plants by wrapping a plastic shroud around their roots. That means the plant can’t be grown as part of a forest. We are likely to lose both the young plant and also the enthusiasm of the people,” he said.
He added that before the tree growing project starts it must be made certain the plants will grow in the selected area,and if that’s done with concern, that means the forest will recover enough to balance the country’s environment during the period of  climate change.
Toyota Motor (Thailand)’s senior vice president Ekachai Ratanachaiwong said the company started the Eco Forest campaign in 2008 by growing  plants at its manufacturing site at Baan Pho, Chachoengsao province. As the company expanded the project spread to its partners and dealers and suppliers.
From the year 2001 until 2013, the company has planted and grown one-million plants nationwide.
“We also advise our partners on how to grow the young trees in the correct way and also to return to attend them again and again,” he said.
To grow a young forest tree successfully, it must match the native trees growing there and also belong to the variety of plants in that location. Then it will be like a natural forest.
Toyota has continued to develop its forest  targets by an  average of 50,000 plants a year. The project is working with  agriculture colleges and universities nationwide, he said.
PTT executive Prasert Salin-ampai said PTT began rehabilitation of the forest in 1994 and succeeded in growing 1.04 million rai of forest by 2002. Then the group kicked off the second phase in 2007 to plant a forest area of one million rai.
PTT’s study shows thata forest like phase one can absorb 18 million tonnes of carbon dioxide a year and also produce 14 million tonnes of oxygen. In terms of money, that’s over Bt6 billion a year - more than PTT’s investment budget for this project, he said.
The project will also provide great benefit to the environment at a time of impending climate change. PTT expects that its second phase of the project scheduled from 2007 until 2024  will absorb up to 21 million tonnes of carbon dioxide  a year, he said.
According to  corporate policy under the  Eco Forest  project, Thailand Environment Institute Foundation predicts the country’s forest area will increase from 33 per cent from last year to 40 per cent by 2017, Prof Dr Sanit Aksornkoae, director of Thailand Environment Institute Foundation said.
He added that Thailand’s forest area in 1937 covered up to 60 per cent of the country’s terrain – but now the country has a forest cover of only 33 per cent of the total of 107 million rai. When all Thai corporations work to support the country’s policy to increase  forests  nationwide, the institute came to its conclusion that by 2017 Thailand would have a forest area of 128 million rai, or 40 per cent of the Kingdom’s total area.
“If we can increase the forest area to achieve that target by 2017, the forest will be absorbing up to 60 million tonnes of carbon dioxide  a year. This will go a long way to recovering the country’s environment during the climate change taking place in this time,” he said.