The Lao PDR is one of the most biodiverse countries in Southeast Asia, with on-going discoveries of new and large species. For example, 28 new species were discovered in 2014. The great range of biodiversity exists thanks to the Lao PDR’s abundance of forest and water resources, which cover the entire length of the country. National Protected Areas (NPAs) now cover 14.2 per cent of the country’s area, while this coverage of protected areas increases to around 20.2 per cent of the land area with the addition of Provincial Protected Areas and District Protected Areas.
Although the Lao PDR is still rich in natural resources, its biodiversity has been negatively impacted by developments, particularly resulting from private sector investment, including agricultural expansion, forest extraction, mining, as well as infrastructure and hydro dam
construction. This report presents that, behind these direct drivers of biodiversity loss, there are a number of indirect drivers that interact in complex ways to cause human-induced changes in biodiversity which involve demographic, economic, socio-political, and cultural and religious factors.
Of significance importance on the loss of biodiversity is deforestation. Forests in the Lao PDR have seen a decrease from 17 million hectares (or 71.8% of the total land area) in 1940, to 9.55 million hectares (or 40.33% of the total land area) in 2010. Efforts to address deforestation and environmental degradation have focussed on protecting forests for sustainable ecosystem services, smallholder forestry projects, and participatory sustainable forest management. Community livelihoods are closely linked to forests and the participation of forest-dependent communities is consequently crucial for successful forest management.
The government has been quick to realize the need to protect the country’s biodiversity, including its iconic wildlife species. It has established a comprehensive national protected area system and enacted laws, decrees, directives, and regulations on the management of forest, aquatic, and wildlife resources across the country. The next challenge is to improve the enforcement of these laws, decrees, directives, and regulations.
The Lao PDR’s first National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (NBSAP) laid out an action plan to 2010 and strategy to 2020, which consisted of seven programmes; (1) Scientific Data and Biodiversity Knowledge Development; (2) Biodiversity Management; (3) Human Resource Development Institutional; (4) Public Awareness and Involvement; (5) Institutional and Legal Frameworks; (6) NBSAP Implementation and (7) International Cooperation. Under those 7 programs, 27 objectives are to be achieved by 2020 and 203 actions were also identified which were to be undertaken by 2010.
n 2011, the IUCN published an assessment of the 1st NBSAP strategy and action plan which summarizes the implementation status per objective and per action under each of the seven programmes. The main conclusion is that significant progress has been made across a range of areas, including biodiversity research, the recording of local knowledge, the expansion of NPAs, the implementation of management plans in a few key NPAs, the drafting of a Biosafety Law, the expansion of ecotourism activities, improved land use planning and land allocation, Ramsar accession, and stricter EIA/ESIA laws; major achievement has been reached on international cooperation, particularly on the participation of the Lao PDR to multilateral environment agreements. However, additional gaps are to be addressed related to improving human resource capacity and biodiversity management, including efforts to ensure that social and economic benefits from the use of natural products originating from the Lao PDR accrue to the nation.
The mainstreaming of biodiversity has been partially executed in recent years. This report provides details of biodiversity mainstreaming at three levels: (1) at the Ministerial level, by the creation of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MoNRE); (2) at the sectorial level, by the establishment of the Natural Resource Management and Environment Sector Working Group (SWG) in 2012, and (3) at the Policy level, through the five-year National Socio Economic Development Plans (NSEDP). In spite of these achievements, additional efforts are to be made to mainstream biodiversity into the different sectors; by ensuring that biodiversity actions are included in sectorial respective strategies, plans, and programmes.
At the global level, on the progress towards the 2020 Aichi biodiversity targets, there has been strong efforts towards outreach activities which have raised awareness of environmental issues and the values of biodiversity, promoted through representation of environmental education activities during special events and festivals, improved environmental curriculum in schools, media training, and capacity development and training of government staff. Improvements have been made to the legal framework to include biodiversity values into sector strategies, policy, and legislation, while positive steps have been made towards improving the EIA process. In terms of urban planning and improved land use planning, there have been positive efforts made towards developing criteria for sustainable urban areas and a National Master Land Use Plan, while in Agro-biodiversity there have been a number of positive initiatives including Provincial regulations on biodiversity conservation corridors, and the adoption of forest and land use planning, allocation and Management (FALUPAM), as well as Agro-biodiversity being integrated in the Uplands Development Strategy and 5 year plans of PAFOS, and DAFOs.
There are a number of initiatives in place which promote the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, including those which support livelihood development of local people around protected areas, and land use titling. Steps which have promoted organic agriculture, regulations around the timber trade and mining industries, NTFP management, as well as better water resource management have also promoted the use of natural resources in a sustainable way. The GoL has implemented a number of actions to improve forest management, forest law enforcement, and improved protected area management throughout the country, while important steps have been
made to conduct research into fish species and fisheries which have informed fishery management practices and aimed at preventing fishery declines.
Guidance on the sustainable management and development of the forest sector in line with national policies has resulted in 51 Production Forest Areas that now have detailed management plans, while village forest management and community forestry has been improved with many examples of the establishment of forest management committees and community-based patrolling of community forests.
Steps have been made to maintain water quality, protect ecosystems, and minimize pollution for the country’s important water basins, while guidelines have been written to avoid negative socioeconomic and environmental impacts at local, national, and regional levels. Research has identified current invasive plant and animal species that are posing threats to natural and agricultural landscapes, and control measures and activities for some of these species have been formulated. Research is being developed which focus on risks and impacts of pesticide use in agriculture. Integrated Pest Management has also been trialled in parts of the country with the view to optimize
the use of local biodiversity, including natural pest enemies, organic fertilizers, and bioinsecticides.
Efforts have been made to classify the status of the Lao PDR’s threatened wildlife and plant species (e.g. the creation of Lao PDR’s IUCN Red List of Threatened Species and the evaluation of the SE Asia Red List of Plant Species) and a number of important wildlife surveys and population status assessments have taken place. Biodiversity monitoring technologies have been adopted to improve the science base and identify threats and trends, and to prioritize protection and restoration interventions, including camera-trapping techniques. There has also been an increased focus on exsitu conservation.
Measures have been taken to protect ecosystems, particularly in northern Laos (e.g. Xiengkhouang, Houaphanh, and Luang Prabang Provinces), including herbicide awareness and management programs, the establishment of fish conservation zones, and incentives to link local livelihoods with ecosystem health. There are many examples of traditional knowledge being used and accepted by partner districts and provinces, reflecting respect for local communities’ customary use of natural resources. A number of steps have been implemented in the Lao PDR since it ratified the Nagoya Protocol in September 2012; legislation has been enacted to harmonize with the international treaty of Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) from the use of genetic resources.
The Environment Protection Fund (EPF) is emerging as an important financier for capacity building and the management of Conservation Forest and Protection Forest which complements well the Forest and Forest Resource Development Fund, other schemes also provide the potential for financing conservation through various payments for forest environmental services initiatives. On the contribution to the Millennium Development Goals, from the information compiled from several MDG Progress Reports, MDG reviews, and the UNDAF -2012-2016 report, it can be concluded that the MDG for Goal 7 to ensure environmental sustainability has made a positive
start in terms of institutions and processes, but is not currently on track to achieve its targets.