Unspoiled nature and vast forests in Thailand are endangered by deforestation activities. This puts the nation’s unique flora and fauna at risk. Theeraphong Boonrodchu was part of a one-day reforestation program that engaged in preserving and restoring the country’s wildlife.
Alongside his colleagues, Boonrodchu is kneeling on the ground. He is focused on placing a little tree in the soil. Soon, the delicate plant in his hand is going to be a sturdy tree with strong roots and a considerable height. Boonrodchu is planting trees outside of the third biggest national park Khao Yai to contribute towards combating climate change and restoring the biological diversity of his country.
Infertile ground and endangered wildlife
Thailand is home to a vast diversity of flora and fauna. However, this diversity is endangered due to an increased deforestation. Deforestation activities include the cutting of trees for agricultural expansion, land being turned into living space, the extension of infrastructure or the illegal logging and export of wood. As a result of those activities, the natural habitat of animals and plants is endangered. Hence, numerous species are at risk of becoming extinct. Furthermore, the burning instead of chopping of old crops, puts Thailand’s unique nature at risk as this can result in forest fires.
An uncontrolled cutting and burning of trees, heightens the risk of infertile ground and damages intact hydrologic cycles. Thailand being a country with a monsoon and a dry season is relying on the forests to balance out the extreme weather conditions and act as water reservoirs. In times where scarcity of clean water supplies is becoming an increasingly prevalent issue, the preservation of the forests is vital.
National parks such as Khao Yai are protected but the trees beyond the park have been subject to deforestation. “While the plants in the national park Khao Yai, a World Heritage site declared by UNESCO, are flourishing, the one’s around it, give us some concern”, explains Boonrodchu. The preservation of flora and fauna in national parks is not enough to prevent climate catastrophes and protect Thailand’s wildlife.
Boonrodchu knows about the adverse effects that deforestation has on climate, air and water quality, which is why the tree-planting activity is very close to his heart.
“Last summer, due to forest fires, nine of Thailand’s provinces showed air quality that is considered to be harmful for the population’s health. The deforestation reduces the capacity of forests to absorb carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. We must set a sign that we care about our environment – deforestation and forest degradation are leading causes of global warming.”
Swapping the urban jungle against an actual one
Boonrodchu and his colleagues went on a two-hour journey from their office in the city of Bangkok to the area around the national park Khao Yai. Their mission for the day was the promotion of a greener future. “Our ambition was not only to encourage reforestation activities but also to raise awareness for environmental protection”, highlights Boonrodchu. With this goal in mind, a team of 90 ZEISS employees together with villagers from Wang Ka Tha Subdistrict planted over 100 trees.
“Everything went very smoothly”, remembers Boonrodchu. “We were in touch with people from the local community that were looking for help. When we arrived at our destination, locals had already prepared holes in the ground, which made the planting of the trees relatively easy.”
A tree that braves extreme climatic conditions
“When picking a tree species, our decision fell on the Acacia Mangium Willd. These ever-green, medium-sized trees have the capacity to grow even on barren ground”, explains Boonrodchu. The Acacia Mangium Willd fulfills two essential criteria: the species is suitable for the extreme climatic and environmental conditions of Thailand as well as shows a rapid growth.
It is a very popular tree for reforestation programs as this type of Acacia is not only a very fast-growing and sturdy tree but also improves soil quality and thus contributes to increasing the fertility of the ground.
The cultivation of the trees around the national park Khao Yai turned out to be a great success. Boonrodchu highlights that important lessons were learnt. “The reforestation activity showed me again how important communication is”, he remembers. “The successful communication between the team from Bangkok and the local community has significantly contributed to the impact of making a positive change”.
Boonrodchu finds it very important to communicate to the local communities that he and his colleagues care about Thailand’s environment. “We want to demonstrate that deforestation is an issue that concerns all of us – not only the immediate neighbors of the forests but also the population that lives as far away as Bangkok”, he adds.
One year past the reforestation activity, the Acacia Mangium Willds are still flourishing and thanks to the successful team work, Thailand has become a little greener.