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  The NPO Green Forum was formerly known as Sansuikai, literally “circle of mountains and water,” a group formed to promote environmental awareness. Its origins, however, date back some 25 years ago, when core members of the present group met once a month in Harajuku, Shibuya, Tokyo to discuss environmental conservation. NPO Green Forum was formally established in June 2003.

  Why has Green Forum chosen to operate mainly in Laos? Most people have little knowledge of the Southeast Asian country of Laos, except as a lush, tropical country. The members of Green Forum were no exception. In truth, though, the country has had a tragic recent history, suffering the most bombing of any country during the Vietnam War. Although it has a communist government it is a strongly Buddhist nation. And in another paradox, despite being a small, agricultural nation, it has become the destination of choice for an increasing number of fascinated visitors.

  Luang Prabang, a small city of 100,000 and a World Heritage Site, is one of the most popular tourism sites today among Europeans. It is a city of ageless temples, where travelers can relax and enjoy the leisurely pace and old-fashioned ambiance. Livestock wander freely through the streets and children splash in the nearby river beneath tall green trees, leaving visitors with a sense of days gone by. However, bucolic scenes like these are now endangered, as a comparison of recent photos of Laos with those taken just a decade ago reveals.
   

  Today huge, 1,000-year-old trees, some with a diameter as wide as a man is tall, can be seen lying on the forest floor throughout the mountainous land. Many of the mountains are now the dark brown of exposed soil, no longer verdant, forest green. The mountains are scarred with a patchwork of unpaved roads, built to allow logging trucks to carry out the timber and leaving few reminders of the mountainous region’s former beauty.

  Where is this timber destined? We have learned that the logs, from Fokienia formoensis (May Long Leng in Lao) trees, are mainly being used to build temples and shrines in Japan. As with Japanese kiso Hinoki trees, there are very little Fokienia formoensis now left in Lao mountain forests, and there have been few attempts at reforestation.

   
  Unfortunately, the situation continues to worsen, due to economic pressure on the local people. Today, more and more of the forest is being destroyed for conversion to agricultural land to meet people’s immediate needs.

  Non-governmental organizations like Green Forum must receive official permission from the government of Laos, which has its own activity guidelines, in order to operate in that country. At Green Forum we were first introduced to an official from the Lao Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry who had been invited to be a guest speaker at an afforestation conference held in Japan in 2007. After that, we entered into negotiations with the Lao government to be permitted to begin development activities. On November 28, 2008, Green Forum received an official Operation Permit from Laos, enabling us to launch our projects. We now intend to expand our environmental activities, centered on afforestation in Laos.