Vanuatu will suffer if it fails to manage its forests sustainably to meet society needs, said the Minister responsible for Forest, Matai Seremaiah.

“If we are not careful, we will destroy all our trees and become like (some cities in) China which is struggling for oxygen and investing a lot to restore forestry.

“Unlike China, we would not be able to meet the cost of replanting if we exploited our forest.

“We must take action now, although our forest are not disappearing at an alarming rate,” he said.

Minister Seremaiah was speaking during the opening of the National Forestry Week in Port Vila.

Vanuatu will suffer if the government does not take lead now in efforts to conserve and manage the national forests sustainably, he said.

“People in Vanuatu continue to cut down a lot of trees to meet the needs of development but are not replanting enough. For example, lot of blue water trees in Luganville are being cut for timber export but I do don’t think we are replanting enough.

“After cutting down a tree, people must plant one or two more new ones.

“Vanuatu will lose visitors in the future if it does not replant.

“The unique natural beauty of our place or environment is what attracts tourists or other people to our country.”

The Minister for Forestry added that the Department of Forestry (DoF) must play its part to implement the laws regarding forestry resources.

“You (the department) can not expect citizens to follow when you are not taking the lead.

“Forest is essential for human being survival.

“We need it for water, food and basic needs and to fight against climate change. But, we are not paying enough attention to conserving forest.”

The Director General (DG) of the Ministry of Agriculture, Benjamin Shing, joined the minister to urge an audience of mostly school children attending the National Forestry Week opening to spread the message of replanting.

Forests play vital role in the environment, economic and social well-being of Vanuatu citizens, he stressed. Shing said he wants to see more people in next year’s event.

The National Forestry Week ends today (Wednesday).