Vientiane Times, 11 August 2014
A ministry has pledged to undertake surveys and draw up land use plans before land lease and concession approvals in order to avoid land disputes. Director General of the Land Administration Department under the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment Mr Siphandone Sihavong made the comment at a two-day workshop that ended last Friday in Vientiane.
He said the natural resources and environment sector would work out the survey for each type of land, with a land use plan to be drawn up in the coming years. “Each type of land to be used must undergo a survey and have a land use plan drawn up and allocated to them in accordance with the land potential,” Mr Siphandone said.
He said relevant sectors would need to work out necessary factors before approving land use such as land leases and concessions, so that it would not bring negative impact socially and economically, as well as no negative impact to the environment and biodiversity. “Land use must be assured that the interest of the state and people are protected,” Mr Siphadone told the workshop.
The workshop, supported by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), brought together representatives from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, Ministry of Planning and Investment and their provincial departments, along with officials from the Ministry of Home Affairs. Several land-related disputes had emerged in recent years, including land concessions and leases for investment projects which impacted conservation and protected forest areas.
A report shown at the workshop suggested that concessions and leases of land have also encroached residential areas and local farmlands, which resulted in the affected villagers submitting petitions to relevant authorities requesting that the issues be addressed. Some cases showed that the approval of land concessions and leases had been duplicated, meaning that one piece of land was approved for two separate projects by different authorities. Previous cases also suggested that officials in charge of approving land concessions had failed to assess the value of existing natural resources on the land before granting approval such as natural forests, biodiversity values or the historical or natural charm of a particular area. Consequently, Laos has made a loss in resources and values.
Mr Siphandone said these issues emerged because of the fact that land concessions and leases had been granted without a survey and were given specific purposes. Meanwhile a land use plan had not been drawn up. The ministry said it would work to ensure the delegation between central and local authorities in relation to land administration would be clearly defined. Mr Siphandone said the outcome of the workshop would contribute to the amendment of the Prime Ministerial Decree on Land Concessions and Leases, in which the ministry pledged to work out.