From June 23 – July 2, the Department of Forestry convened a consultation meeting to revise the Protected Area (PA) Decree following previous technical consultations with national and international PA practitioners in Lao PDR. The consultation was attended by representatives from the Ministry of Justice, the Prime Minister’s Office, with The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) acting as technical partner.
Based on the promulgation of the Forestry Law in 2019 and the country’s renewed sustainable and green growth priorities and international commitments, the draft Decree proposes changes for effective and modern protected area management. The changes will better define protected areas in terms of government jurisdiction, categories, zones and regional/international listings, and will lead to improved guidance around protected area management planning and alignment with international standards. The updated Decree will promote a landscape management approach for better planning and coordination with other sectors, local communities, and the private sector to achieve long-term sustainable development and management of biodiversity. The Decree has been revised to empower protected area institutions with improved authority and institutional setup and will clearly describe the rights and obligations of guardian villages. Lastly, the Decree will facilitate partnerships to sustainably finance the management of protected areas in Lao PDR.
The revision of the PA Decree is currently supported under a partnership formed between the European Union (EU), French Agency for Development (AFD) and WCS in joint efforts to protect the country’s unique biodiversity and sustainable use of natural resources. The four-year “Ecosystem Conservation through Integrated Landscape Management in Lao PDR (ECILL)” Project utilizes an integrated landscape approach and green growth model, and supports improved regulatory frameworks to secure Lao PDR’s forests, biodiversity and assist rural communities in sustainably managing their natural resources. The project will establish co-management models where communities and local government gain increased voice and benefit, and private sector is engaged in sustainable business practice. The project covers three biodiversity-rich areas in Lao PDR, Nam Et-Phou Louey National Park, Bolikhamxay Protected Area Landscapes and the Xe Champhone Ramsar Wetland Complex in Savannakhet.
The Acting Director General of the Department of Forestry, Mr. Bounpone Sengthong, recognized the progress made over the past three decades by the government and the conservation community towards setting up the protected area system in Lao PDR since its establishment in 1993. Today, the number of protected areas in Lao PDR has increased from 18 to 24, of which five have been categorized as ‘National Park’ (IUCN Category II) for stricter protection.
Lao PDR is home to numerous endemic, migratory and threatened species, some of which are extinct in other parts of the world, such as the Asian elephant (Elephas maximus), clouded leopard (Pardofelis nebulosa), gaur (Bos gaurus), saola (Pseudoryx nghetinhensis), gibbon (Hylobates spp., Nomascus spp.), Siamese crocodile (Crocodylus siamensis) and the white winged duck (Cairina scutulata). However, Lao PDR’s biodiversity is currently under threat due to climate change, illegal wildlife trade, hunting and poaching coupled with high rates of deforestation causing fragmentation and loss of habitats. Strong regulatory frameworks such as the revised PA Decree is a step forward in safeguarding Lao PDR’s rich biodiverse landscapes for both people and nature.