Working towards greater community control over land, forests and natural resources

Lao companies to benefit from railway project: Officials

Source: Vientiane Times,April 21, 2017

http://www.vientianetimes.org.la/FreeContent/FreeConten_Laocompanies.htm
Officials in charge have confirmed that Lao construction companies will benefit from the almost-US$6 billion railway project linking Vientiane to the Chinese border.

Director of the Laos-China Railway construction project and Director of the Lao National Railway Company, Dr Koung Souk-Aloun, told Vientiane Times on Wednesday that a list of 59 companies has been submitted to the Chinese side for selection.

�We have sent them [the Chinese side] 59 companies, not 20 companies. The selection process is underway and hopefully Lao companies will be hired to undertake some of the work on the railroad project,� he said.

Xayaboury to Halt Banana Plantations mid This Year

The northern province of Xayaboury has decided that as of mid-this year, no more Chinese investments in banana plantations will be allowed. Currently, there are over 520 ha of banana plantations in the province.

Chinese banana plantation investments are suspected as the cause of several problems including the over-use of chemical fertilizers, herbicides and insecticides which have failed to comply with required standards, thus affecting local communities and the environment.

Ministry to closely monitor agri-business

Vientiane Times, February 7, 2017.
http://www.vientianetimes.org.la/FreeContent/FreeConten_Ministry.htm

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry will this year closely monitor domestic and foreign investment in this sector as it believes that many companies have not implemented the agreements made or complied with stipulated feasibility study methods.The ministry will strictly apply management measures to investors and companies that have made no progress with their proposed projects or had an adverse impact on local communities and the environment.However, the ministry has not revealed the numbers and names of the companies concerned, the ministry reported at its annual meeting in Vientiane at the end of last year.Last year, 733 domestic and foreign companies agreed to invest in the agriculture and forestry sector in Laos with total investment of US$3.55 billion while US$1.74 billion of registered funding was allocated to land concessions on about 467,980 hectares.

Some 107 companies invested in livestock projects with funding of US$338.88 million, 345 companies invested in agriculture with funding of about US$1.22 billion, 232 companies invested in tree plantations with funding of about US$1.96 billion, and 49 companies ploughed US$34 million into service sector projects.

PM vows to address chronic land issues

Vientiane Times, February 6, 2017

Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith has pledged to find solutions to the many land issues that have emerged and the government has formed a task force committee to investigate the problems and resolve them.

The committee will investigate land concessions, the transfer of land use rights in various cases, implementation of the government’s policy to turn assets into capital, and the occupation of land by local people among other concerns, after these issues have caused land disputes and problems.

Kasy town to be relocated to make way for railway

Vientiane Times January 3, 2017

By Khonesavanh Latsaphao

The urban centre of Kasy district in Vientiane province will be relocated to an area near the Kasy road to allow for construction of the Laos-China railway.

A plot of flat land located in the Kasy road area has been allocated, requiring the relocation of about 400 houses and government offices that currently line Road 13 North.

Director of the provincial Public Works and Transport Department, Mr. Soumountha Somchanmavong, told Vientiane Times on Friday that dirt roads have already been built in the area where the town will be relocated.

What can be done to mitigate the harmful effects of mining?

Vientiane Times, November 7, 2016

http://www.vientianetimes.org.la/sub-new/Opinion/Opinion_what260.htm

Mining operations are proliferating in Laos but many of them are not utilising environmentally friendly practices, adversely affecting local communities and failing to comply with government regulations. Vientiane Times went to the National Assembly to ask members about their experiences of these issues in their home constituency.

Policy makers call for recognition of inherited lands

Vientiane Times, August 25, 2016
http://www.vientianetimes.org.la/FreeContent/FreeConten_Policy.htm

Policy makers have called for recognition of lands which local people have inherited from their parents, despite land titles having not been issued for those lands. They made the calls as policy makers from various organisations shared opinions to improve and finalise the Draft National Land Policy at a meeting on Tuesday in Vientiane.
The draft is planned to be submitted for debate at the government monthly meeting tomorrow. The draft is then set for submission to the ordinary session of the National Assembly in October this year. According to the draft policy presented for discussion at Tuesday’s meeting, the state acknowledges and protects the land use rights of people who have inherited land from their parents or relatives. In this regard, the lands are required to be developed or made use of for some production or development activities and must not be located in protected or conservation forest areas.
Deputy Director General of the Land Administration Department, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment Mr. Anothai Chanthalasy said yesterday that the participants recommended that more details needed to be worked out toward recognition.
�The participants have suggested that once the draft is approved, the policy is required to be translated into law and regulations,� he told Vientiane Times , adding the current Law on Land would be amended in line with the policy.
The law and regulations are supposed to provide details such as for how many years after the lands are occupied that land rights would be recognised and also if it has been used over consecutive periods.
Some observers noted it would be illogical for nomad farmers to claim ownership recognition over every plot they have used for shifting slash and burn cultivation from place to place. Previously, reports emerged that some local people who inherited lands from their parents were poorly compensated by development projects as the project developers claimed the lands were not issued with land titles. But some policy makers noted it was the state sector in charge that was slow in issuing the land titles.
The participants welcome the draft, which states that people whose lands are affected by development projects will receive fair and reasonable compensation that will enable the affected people to enjoy better living conditions. Those lands affected by commercial projects will be compensated in line with the market price at the time. The state also permits foreign citizens of Lao origin to purchase residential land use rights in line with the relevant law and regulations after they are granted permission to stay in Laos permanently, according to the draft.
Foreign investors doing businesses in Laos are also allowed to purchase land use rights to construct residences and offices in line with the relevant law and regulations.
The draft indicates that 16.9 million hectares of land representing 70 percent of the nation’s total area will be dedicated for forest coverage. Some 4.5 million hectares representing 19 percent is assigned for agricultural production, while the remaining 2.28 million hectares or 11 percent is allocated to be used for other purposes.
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