From: Associated Press
Published October 8, 2004 12:00 AM

Myanmar Leader Says More than Half of Country Is Forested, Despite Concerns About Deforestation

YANGON, Myanmar — Myanmar's prime minister said Thursday that forests cover more than half of the country and trees are being replaced faster than they are being cut down, despite concerns the country is suffering the fastest deforestation in Southeast Asia.

Speaking at the opening of the 26th Association of Southeast Asian Nations meeting on agriculture and forestry in Yangon, Prime Minister Gen. Khin Nyunt said 52.3 percent of Myanmar was forested and that millions of hectares (acres) were protected from deforestation.

"Myanmar ranks fifth in the world with forests and woodland coverage," Khin Nyunt said.

Myanmar's military government has acknowledged that illegal logging goes on in its forests but denies claims by some environmental groups that they are in danger of disappearing due to extensive tree cutting.

Last year, Britain-based Global Witness said the cash-strapped regime and rebel groups in border areas are cutting down trees "at an unsustainable rate with disastrous consequences for the environment."

The group said Myanmar is suffering the fastest deforestation in Southeast Asia, itself the worst-affected region in the world.

Khin Nyunt said Thursday that agricultural expansion, urbanization, and demand for fuel results in the deforestation of about 15,100 hectares (37,310 acres) annually, but that the Forest Department has planted trees on 30,000 hectares (74,130 acres) annually since 1972.

The government recently launched a program to conserve the country's teak forest in the central Bago Yoma region, he added.

Source: Associated Press

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