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Lao People's Democratic Republic - Country Profile

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Status and Trends of Biodiversity


The biodiversity of Lao PDR includes 166 species of reptiles and amphibians, 700 birds, 90 bats and over 247 mammals. The Mekong River and its tributaries alone are reported to contain approximately 500 species of indigenous fish. The country’s economy depends mainly on natural resources, therefore the sustainable use of Lao PDR’s biodiversity may be one of the keys means for poverty reduction in the country. However, the increasing population in rural areas relies heavily on biodiversity resources, which has led to pressures over the past few years.

Number and Extent of Protected Areas

The program to establish a national biodiversity conservation system has been active since 1989. Prime Minister’s Decree No4/1993 established 18 National Biodiversity Conservation Areas (NBCAs), later increased to 20 plus two corridor areas. The current area totals 3.4 million hectares or 14.3% of the country’s area. In addition, provinces and districts have designated their own conservation areas and protection forests, bringing the overall national total to 5.3 million hectares or 22.6% of the total land area.

Percentage of Forest Cover

According to the latest study in late 2002 and early 2003 comparing changes in land use and forest area, the forested area occupies some 71.6% (17 million ha) of the total land area. The study also shows that current forests, which are relatively rich and with canopy density of 20% and more, occupied some 41.5 percent (9.7 million ha) in 2002 down from some 47% (11.2 million ha) in 1992. Direct causes for this loss are forest clearing and burning by unsustainable shifting cultivation, uncontrolled logging and conversion to agriculture and other land uses with the underlying causes of widespread poverty, rapid population increase and weak law enforcement. Forest change, which encompasses decreases in stocking and size of trees and loss of wildlife and plant habitats, is also a serious problem in addition to the physical deforestation. There is growing concern with the adverse social, and environment impacts of such trends. Moreover, deforestation and forest degradation affects most severely the poorest segments of the population, and particularly women and ethnic groups whose livelihood depends on the health of the national forest resource.

National Biodiversity Strategy Action Plan

Major features of National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan

The goal of the NBSAP is to maintain biodiversity for poverty alleviation. As such, the main objectives are: to identify important biological diversity components and improve the knowledge base: manage biodiversity on a regional basis, using natural boundaries to facilitate the integration of conservation and utilization-oriented management; plan and implement a biodiversity specific human resource management program; increase public awareness of and encourage participation in sustainable management of biodiversity; adjust and harmonize national legislation and regulations; secure the NBSAP implementation; and promote international cooperation. Some of the issues addressed include the diversity and productivity of cultivated areas, the richness of forests, the state and abundance of water resources, and the improvement of human settlements. These seven main objectives represent seven implementation programmes, for which several objectives and related actions have been defined.

Implementation of the Convention

Measures Taken to Achieve the 2010 Target

To improve the legal and regulatory framework, Lao PDR will: consider participation in other international conventions (besides the Convention on Biodiversity (CBD) and CITES); consider the preparation of a law on biodiversity conservation based on the review of existing National Biodiversity Conservation Areas (NBCA) and other related regulations; and improve wildlife and aquatic life regulations concerning use of wetlands for fish raising and ecotourism.

Actions to improve the development and management of NBCAs include: review the existing NBCA system to include important wildlife and aquatic habitats and exclude more development areas; prepare long-term NBCA development and management plans with participation of stakeholders including local villages; improve NBCA financing through government funding and income generating activities and fines; develop eco-tourism in investment programs and projects; provide NBCA managers with the required material and facilities (transport, computer, uniforms, etc.); increase NBCA staff numbers and skill levels through short and long-term programs and establish an NBCA staff management and reward system to compensate for duties performed under difficult living and working conditions; consider the development of codes of practice or guidelines for tourism operators to provide a basis for development of responsible ecotourism that benefits rural communities and the environment while generating revenue for the nation; identify sites for conservation of tree genetic resources in the whole country and establish legal framework for conservation of the sites and the use of genetic resources; and develop controls and regulations on the protection of forest genetic resources and intellectual property rights to ensure that benefits from development of pharmaceuticals or other products, which may have been derived from genetic resources collected in Lao PDR or developed based on traditional knowledge of forest products, accrue to the nation and rural communities.

Concerning the control of wildlife trade, the government of Lao PDR is: using information collected from recent studies on wildlife trade in Lao PDR to identify and implement priority actions to strengthen domestic and international wildlife trade controls; intensifying border patrols to control unauthorized export of wildlife to neighboring countries and to enhance monitoring of trade/transport routes out of NBCAs; and taking advantage of participation in CITES to strongly cooperate with other countries on border control of trade on wildlife and plants

Actions to enhance education and public awareness include: educate and train staff in central, provincial and district level (including Ministry of Finance tax and customs staff) on biodiversity conservation and trade in wildlife and plant species; establish extension programs on the sustainable use of wildlife and plants and conservation in general; educate villagers to streamline forest resource use methods that threaten resource base or negatively impact biodiversity; and introduce or include biodiversity conservation into primary and secondary school curriculum.

To strengthen research, Lao PDR will: prepare research into dynamics of important plants, wildlife and habitats inside and outside NBCAs; cooperate with foreign universities and institutes to develop scientific knowledge and provide high level training for officials and students; and develop plant and wildlife databases for research, decision-making and management.

Initiatives in Protected Areas

Management of National Biodiversity Conservation Areas is still at an initial stage. Many of them lack clear boundaries and management plans and resource depletion continues. Illegal harvesting and trade of wildlife and Non Timber Forest Products is also likely widespread. Operational capacity of saw mills is still far above the harvesting levels set by the Government and continues to put pressure on natural forests.

Initiatives in Access and Benefit Sharing

Lao PDR is a party to the ASEAN Framework Agreement on Access, and Fair and Equitable sharing of Benefits Arising from the Utilization of, Biological and Genetic Resources. The main obligations of the parties are: (a) taking legislative, administrative or policy measures as appropriate to regulate access to, and fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the utilization of, biological and genetic resources in accordance with this Agreement; (b) establishing procedures for the granting of prior informed consent at the national and local levels with the direct involvement of resource providers; (c) disseminating information on access regulation, and applications for access that have been approved and denied, including the reasons and circumstances for such a denial; and (d) establishing links with, and providing information to the regional clearing house mechanism once it has been established.

Initiatives for Article 8(j)

The traditional knowledge of indigenous peoples and of local communities related to the possible use of the biological diversity that surrounds them is an important resource, particularly in the search for new medicines. The Lao PDR has one of the richest biodiversity resources in the Asia-Pacific region. The local people have been applying their own traditional knowledge in their daily lives, and this is a strong basis for sustainable socio-economic development and environmental protection.

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  • United Nations
  • United Nations Environment Programme