By Khonesavanh Latsaphao
January 12, 2012
More than 133,350 hectares of the Xe Sap National Biodiversity Conservation Area in Xekong and Saravan provinces will now be better protected, Deputy Head of the provincial Sector of Forest Conservation, Mr Keopaylin Gnonphetsy, said on Wednesday.
The improved forest protection and surveillance will be funded by KwF, a German non-governmental organisation, at a cost of more than 1.9 million euros and the project will run from 2011-15.
“The project will provide us with extra resources and funding to better protect the Xe Sap National Biodiversity Conservation Area, which is under threat from illegal logging and hunting,” Mr Keopaylin said.
KwF has agreed to provide additional funds to forestry protection officials in Laos, as the Xe Sap protected area shares a border with an adjacent conservation park in Vietnam, where KwF is also supporting conservation efforts.
Previously, KwF provided funding only to a protected area on the Vietnamese side of the border. But it was realised that a more comprehensive approach was required as this part of the Annamite mountain chain has the highest biodiversity conservation values, and does not recognise national boundaries.
Native forests are one of the most important natural resources in Laos, and are used for a variety of development related activities such as protected watersheds for hydropower development and also for future ecotourism ventures.
Deforestation and illegal logging causes not only erosion but depletes natural watersheds, which has negative consequences for farmers downstream. Xekong and Saravan provinces aim to contribute to the government’s policy on sustainable forestry management through reforestation and tree planting projects.
They also want to improve the livelihoods of local villagers and involve them in environmental protection efforts which will benefit them in the long term, particularly as Laos becomes more popular as an eco-tourism destination.
Before the project began, the poor management of the Xe Sap National Biodiversity Conservation Area was having a significant impact on the watershed and local socio-economic development, Mr Keopaylin noted.
Forest destruction leads to degraded watersheds, land erosion, and lower water levels in the dry season, he explained. At present, the project supports forest management and biodiversity conservation in this forest, as well as reforestation initiatives. “Since the project began we have seen wildlife numbers increase visibly, but don’t know by how many exactly due to inadequate surveying,” he said.
According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, the government is planning to preserve 9.5 million hectares of forests to reverse deforestation and degradation of the country’s natural forest assets.
The plan is to restore forest cover to 65 percent of the country by 2015 and to 70 percent by 2020. The three categories of forest in Laos managed by the government are National Protected Areas, National Protection Forests, and National Production Forests.
At present, there are 49 National Protection Forests covering 7.5 million hectares but the ministry plans to add thousands more to achieve its goal of 8.2 million hectares of protected forest by 2015.
At present there is no legislation that differentiates the three categories of forest. The ministry plans to introduce a law to safeguard National Protection Forests, to protect forests from various forms of damage.