Country Profiles

Lao People's Democratic Republic - Main Details

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Biodiversity Facts

Status and trends of biodiversity, including benefits from biodiversity and ecosystem services

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

The Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR) is located in the centre of the Indo-Chinese Peninsula, bordering on China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and Myanmar. Approximately 80% of its 236,800 km2 landmass is mountainous although it has some floodplains along the Mekong River and its tributaries. About one-third of the country has a slope of over 30%, while two-thirds of the rest of the country has slopes between 20-30%. There are five different types of eco-regions in Laos: Annamite Range Moist Forests, Indochina Dry Forests, Northern Indochina Sub-tropical Moist Forests, Mekong River and its catchment. More than 40% of its landmass is covered by forests.

The biodiversity of fauna in Lao PDR is comprised of 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. In addition, there are an estimated 8-11,000 species of flowering plants. 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.

Main pressures on and drivers of change to biodiversity (direct and indirect)

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

The major threat to biodiversity is the shift in cultivation practices from villagers living near National Biodiversity Conservation Areas (NBCAs) across their borders. It is estimated that 90% of these shifting cultivation activities are carried out by people living in the immediate vicinity of protected areas; 70% of Non-Timber Forest Products are sold by residents inside the protected areas and 30% who enter are from outside the NBCAs.

Another major threat is wildlife harvesting for food done by 70% of the local residents living in or near to the protected areas and 30% by outsiders. Both local and provincial residents use lands inside some of the NBCAs for grazing livestock. This has led to increased human-wildlife conflict and some instances of tiger predation on livestock.

Other threats include hydropower development, mining, infrastructure development and land use change.

Measures to Enhance Implementation of the Convention

Implementation of the NBSAP

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

The goal of the NBSAP for Lao PDR, adopted in 2004, was to maintain biodiversity to contribute towards poverty alleviation. Its main objectives were 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, including with the provisions of Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs); secure NBSAP implementation; and promote international cooperation.

The Lao People’s Democratic Republic is currently carrying out actions to revise and update its NBSAP and intends to integrate it into the National Socioeconomic Development Plan. It is also engaged in a process to develop national targets through cooperation with sectoral working groups.

Actions taken to achieve the 2020 Aichi Biodiversity Targets

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

To achieve the 2020 Aichi Biodiversity Targets through NBSAP implementation, the Government has set up some key activities that address Aichi Targets 1, 2, 11, 12 and 19, in particular.

The program to establish a national biodiversity conservation system has been active since 1989 when the Prime Minister’s Decree established 18 NBCAs which was later increased to 20 plus two corridor areas. The current area comprises 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.

Actions to improve the development and management of NBCAs include reviewing the existing NBCA system to include important wildlife and aquatic habitats and exclude more development areas; preparing long-term NBCA development and management plans with participation of stakeholders, including local villages; improving NBCA financing through Government funding and income-generating activities and fines; developing ecotourism in investment programs and projects; providing NBCA managers with the required material and facilities (transport, computer, uniforms, etc.); increasing NBCA staff numbers and skill levels through short- and long-term programs and establishing an NBCA staff management and reward system to compensate for duties performed under difficult living and working conditions; consideration of 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; identification of sites for conservation of tree genetic resources in the whole country and the establishment of a legal framework for conservation of the sites and the use of genetic resources; and development of controls and regulations on the protection of forest genetic resources and intellectual property rights to ensure that benefits from the 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 is: using information collected from recent studies on wildlife trade in the country 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 in wildlife and plants.

To enhance education and public awareness, activities being carried out include: educating and training staff at central, provincial and district levels (including Ministry of Finance tax and customs staff) on biodiversity conservation and trade in wildlife and plant species; establishment of extension programs on the sustainable use of wildlife and plants and conservation in general; educating villagers to streamline forest resource use methods that threaten resource base or negatively impact biodiversity; and introduction or inclusion of biodiversity conservation into primary and secondary school curriculums.

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.

Support mechanisms for national implementation (legislation, funding, capacity-building, coordination, mainstreaming, etc.)

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

To improve the legal and regulatory framework, Lao PDR has: increased participation in other international conventions; considered the preparation of a law on biodiversity conservation based on the review of existing NBCAs and other related regulations; and improved wildlife and aquatic life regulations concerning the use of wetlands for fish raising and ecotourism.

Biodiversity issues are streamlined through the Water Resource and Environmental Agency (WREA) and Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) which are directly responsible for cooperation and coordination with concerned agencies, including both central and local administration authorities and international agencies. They are also in charge of identifying sources of funding in order to support NBSAP implementation.

Other funding mechanisms of the Government include the use of the National Tourism Fund which is supported by a 5% tax on national operators, income from the “Biodiversity Maintenance Fee” generated from the costs of obtaining tourist visas in the country, and hydropower concessions in major power generating projects, such as the Nam Leuk and Nam Theun II projects. Other sources of funding will come from potential bilateral and multilateral donors, the private sector and external donors.

There have been various efforts to mainstream biodiversity conservation and management issues into different sectors and Government departments (e.g. Forestry Strategy to 2020, water resources, energy, fisheries, road/infrastructure development, trade and industry, agriculture, tourism, development activities).

Mechanisms for monitoring and reviewing implementation

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

The NBSAP assessment report is published, outlining and addressing shortcomings in the NBSAP.