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

Experts formulate plans for natural resources and environment sector

Vientiane Times, 17 May 2014

Lao and international experts have vowed to consolidate partnerships and policies to address the challenges encountered by the country’s natural resources and environment sector. The experts made the decision last week when reviewing their cooperation in the sector over the past six months and discussing the implementation of directives reached at last year’s round table meeting.

The issues of greatest concern are deforestation and degradation. As land use in the country increases, environmental laws, policies and regulations governing land, forestry and water resources have to be improved. “It is important to look at the laws not [as] separate . . . but see them as an entire package to make sure they reinforce each other or do not contrast with each other,” German Ambassador to Laos, Mr Robert Von Rimscha said in his remark at the meeting of the sector working group.

Germany has supported the sector in Laos for many years, especially through backing sustainable land management in order to enhance land tenure security by supporting the process of giving land titles. Mr von Rimscha said he was concerned about deforestation and illegal logging – which he said were reported in newspapers almost daily – as well as the illegal trade of wildlife, threats to biodiversity, conflict between agricultural land and large concessions and the declining revenue of the mining sector.

He congratulated the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, which he said has only existed for three years, for being the most visible actor in the field on behalf of the Lao government. But he said the ministry alone would not be able to establish a clear and loud voice on the issues concerned.

The working group meeting is part of a discussion to draft a long-term strategy on the natural resources and environment sector. Deputy Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Mr Sisavath Vithasay said the strategy was important as it covered many related sub-sectors. He said the harmony between the sub-sectors should be ensured. Mr von Rimscha said natural resources were very important to economic development and poverty reduction, so it was important to use them in a balanced and appropriate way.

World Bank Country Manager for Laos, Keiko Miwa said economic growth, environmental protection and natural resource management should go hand-in-hand. She highlighted the progress in establishing a management mechanism for the Mekong tributaries river basin. She said there were various stakeholders who depended on the waterways for development. She said it was very important that the government brought all the stakeholders together to produce a modern water policy that could serve all the users by taking good international practices and applying them in the Lao context.

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