The Quang Nam provincial authorities have announced the establishment of the Forest Protection and Development Fund, and signed the contracts on providing forest environmental services with the 13 organizations in the locality.
The fund aims to mobilize different resources in the society for the forest protection and development. At first, the fund would operate with the budget of 5 billion dong allocated by the provincial authorities.
Prior to that, the model of paying fees for forest environmental services was carried out in a trial basis in the mountainous commune of Ma Cooih in Dong Giang district of Quang Nam province.
Vo Viet Cuong, GASF – Winrock International Project Director, the organization that initiated the model, said that there were two subjects that received pay for the forest environment services, including the A Vuong preventive forest's board of management and the households, which were assigned to protect the forests.
Every household was assigned to take care and protect 20 hectares of forests, for which they got 270,000 dong per hectare a year. This meant that every household could earn 5.4 million dong a year.
According to the Quang Nam Department for Agriculture and Rural Development, the enterprises using the forest environment services, mostly hydropower plants, paid 35 billion dong in service fees to the forest owners – the board of management of the forests, afforestation yards, resident communities, households and individuals.
It is expected that the service users would pay 58 billion dong in 2012.
In 2008, the Prime Minister released the decision on implementing the pilot program on forcing forest environment service users to pay fees for the services, applied to preventive, specialized, and production forests.
The service fee can be posted as a part of the production cost for calculating the sale prices, 20 dong per kwh for hydropower plants, 40 dong per cubic meters of water and 1-2 percent of the total turnover of tourism revenue. The money would be put into the provincial fund for the forest protection and development which would pay to the organizations and households that protect the forests.
Cuong believes that this is a very reasonable mechanism which allows to protect forests effectively for a long term, because it ensures the fairness in the work allocation in the society.
Once upstream forests are protected, not only hydropower plants' water reservoirs and local residents can be safe from calamities, but people and construction works in the lowland can also be protected.
For a long time, lowlanders can enjoy the values of the forests, such as the fresh air and clean water sources, while the highlanders, who have to spend time and efforts to protect forests, cannot get benefits from their works.
Therefore, Cuong said, it would be fair if lowlanders pay highlanders for their efforts to protect forests, and service users pay to service providers. In fact, hydropower plants, water plants or travel firms are not the fee payers, because the fees are taken into accounts in calculating production costs and sale prices.
Vu Phuc Thinh, Director of the Board of Management of the A Vuong preventive forest, also thinks that the mechanism is the best solution to protect forests. Since local residents get money for their works, they consider forests as their assets and always try to fulfill their duty of protecting the forests.
Thinh said that local residents have been closely cooperating with the board of management, which helped discovered 20 cases of illegally chopping down trees. “People now do not join hands with illegal lumberjacks any more,” he said.