Natural resources are the backbone that supports local communities and the Lao PDR economy. Increasingly as the country’s population expands and the economy grows, pressure exerted on natural resources is intensifying. For example, Lao PDR’s forest cover has decreased by 30% over the last 30 years. Natural resource exploitation is dominated by hydropower, commercial forestry, agro-industrial expansion and mining. Currently, mining represents 80% of foreign direct investment in Lao PDR, and 70 new hydropower projects are planned to be opened in the near future. Such development will have direct impacts on wild places, wild species, and local livelihoods.
There is an opportunity to engage with the government and the private sector to develop programs that mitigate and compensate for these impacts and plan for future scenarios that provide beneficial outcomes for both wildlife and humans. WCS is already at the forefront of this fieldin Lao PDR. We have established relationships with both the government and major private sector companies involved in natural resource use and extraction. There are opportunities to further expand these partnerships, engage in informative research, develop operational models,and contribute to national policy development.