Laos, a country in the middle of Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia. This place is loved by Koreans for its beautiful heritage that harmonizes nature and cultural traditions. But even this beautiful country could not avoid the effects of climate change and the Pandemic. Future Eco heard about Laos’ climate impact, strategies and eco-friendly policies from the Ambassador to Korea.
In Laos, it is thought that the way of life has changed in the same way as in other countries due to Covid-19. What is the situation of Covid-19 in Laos?
First of all, let me to express my sincere gratitude to the leaders of Future Eco magazine for giving me the opportunity to share with you on the current information of the Lao PDR. In my view, the Covid-19 pandemic threats to the entire world, million people have been infected and number of people has lost their lives. Covid-19 outbreak has impacted to global economy, the main sectors effected are tourism, service, investment and trade.
Laos have a special risk as the country shares the border with five countries, early the Government is focusing on preventive and response measure in advance, the Government has established a National Prevention, Control and Response Task-Force Committee on Covid-19 with the Deputy Prime-Minister as the Head of the Committee. In every day, this body carry out its role, right and duties in leading, monitoring and evaluation the outcome of the implementation of the preventive measure.
So f ar, L aos h ave found t otally 39 confirmed cases, however we have not found local infection, only imported cases, but the country still lockdown, close the border checkpoint with neighboring countries, suspend all kind of visa, avoid travelling abroad, travelers from abroad must take self – quarantine for 14 days, avoid a large gathering and remain to continue engage the public to participate in social distancing.
Of course, this measure generate impact on operation of business and the well-being of the people, but the Government is forced to use for saving lives, healthy of the people and national security.
Lao greatest asset is its beautiful cultural heritage which harmonizes with nature, such as Luan Prabang, Lao leading tourist destination. Please tell me about the efforts to preserve and develop Lao his tory and cultural heritage.
As we have known that Laos has 3 UNESCO World heritage sites such as the Ancient City Luang Prabang, the Wat Phou Champasak Temple and the Mysterious Plain of Jars in Xieng khuang Province that are of significant Archaeological, historic and natural values. In this regards, the Lao Government has paid closely attention to issue the principles and measure for maintenance and preservation with accordance to the UNESCO’s rule in conjunction with private sections and the people who lived nearby the said world heritage sites and that’s why the reason to make the number of Korean visitors travel to Laos in 2019, there are about 177,000, meanwhile more than 12,000 Lao people visiting Korea and it is among the top tier of foreign tourists entering our country.
I know Laos is hot and humid all year round. South Korea suffered from long rainy season and frequent typhoons last summer. So, I would like to hear about climate change and the response policies in Laos.
Lao PDR’s climate change challenges are recognized in Lao PDR’s key development strategies and plans. A number of climate change strategies, action plans and legislation have been developed to guide and drive Lao PDR’s response to climate change.
Figure above summarizes the synergies and interactions between key development and climate change policies. The Lao PDR ratified the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1995 and ratified the Kyoto Protocol in 2003. As a party to the Convention, Lao PDR submitted its First National Communication in 2000, National Adaptation Program (NAPA) in 2009, National Strategy on Climate Change in 2010 with action plan for 2013-2020, and submitted Second National Communication in 2013. In 2015, Lao PDR passed a national law on its NDC, making it the first country in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and 26th country in the world to ratify the Paris Agreement under the UNFCCC13.
Currently the Climate Change Law is being developed and will provide an overarching legal framework for climate change adaptation and mitigation. The law will clarify the legal mandates and reporting lines among relevant ministries and different administrative bodies in relation to climate change. The law will identify sources of climate finance and the management of these funds. At the same time, Third National Communication is being developed and is intended to be submitted to the UNFCC by the end of 2019.
The Forestry Law was revised in 2008 and informs national policy on reforestation and deforestation, sustainable use of forests and forest resources, and the use of forests and ecosystems for ecotourism. The law requires the increase of forest cover as sink source for greenhouse gas emissions, classifying forests into three types for their management and use:
• Protected Area with the main objective of conserving rich forest, forest resources and biodiversity.
• Protection Forest with the main objective of protecting forests for specific uses (e.g. watershed management, upstream forest protection)
• Production Forest for sustainable use.
The Water and Water Resources Law was updated in 2017 and aims to improve the sustainability of Lao’s water resources. The law is expected to influence the monitoring, management and planning of the country’s rivers. The update adds new provisions on water rights and use, including waste-water discharge permits, wetlands and water-resources protection, ground-water management, and river-basin management. Additionally, the law expands the terms and conditions of large, medium, and small-scale uses and includes articles on environmental flows for hydropower as well as stipulations related to irrigation use.
As development is carried out by urbanization in Laos, finding a balance between ecosystem conservation and economic growth is expected to be a big challenge. What position does the Lao government take on this? Also, can you please introduce us to an eco-friendly policy to prevent reckless development, if there is any?
Lao PDR’s priorities and development goals are set out in a number of harmonized national development strategies: Vision 2030, Ten-year Socio-economic Development Strategy (2016–2025) and 8th National Socio-economic Development Plan (2016- 2020).
Vision 2030 aims to transform Lao PDR into an upper-middle income developing country by 2030, with innovative, green and sustainable economic growth, quadrupling the country’s per capita GDP and GNI. This includes a strong basic infrastructure system to support industrialization and modernization, the country systematically following a socialist market economy, social justice, peace and order, improving people's livelihoods and solidarity, reduced development disparities between urban and rural areas, improved human development that ensures all have access to quality social services, people's rights protected under the effective rule of law, the administrative system following the Three Builds directive, environmental protection through efficient utilization of natural resources to ensure sustainability, political stability and strength and Lao PDR actively moving towards regional and international integration. The Ten-year Socio-economic Development Strategy (2016-2025) aims to double per capita gross national income by 2020, underpinned by seven sub-strategies:
• Strategy on quality, inclusive, stable, sustainable and green economic growth
• Strategy on least developed country (LDC) graduation by 2024 and progress on the Sustainable Development Goals
• Strategy on human development
• Strategy on sustainable and green environment with effective and efficient use of the natural resources
• Strategy to enhance government’s role in social management under the effective rule of law
• Strategy on regional and international integration
• Strategy on industrialization and modernization.
Ten Year Natural Resources and Environment Strategy 2016-2025 (NRES 2016-2025): The vision is to make Lao DPR green, clean and beautiful, based on green economic growth, ensuring ensure sustainable, resilient economic development. The strategy includes 2030 targets that address forest cover, biodiversity protection, tree planning, urban parks, water and air pollution, water quality, use of hazardous chemicals in the agriculture and forestry sector, municipal waste generation and separation, waste collection systems, climate change mitigation, green production, resource consumption from industry and tourism, minimizing social and environmental impacts from investment projects (e.g. hydropower, mining, infrastructure, industry, industrial plantation, urban development), access to climate change data and information, knowledge and understanding to respond and recover from disasters, and reducing risks and impacts from natural disasters. The following five objectives are to be achieved by 2025: Ensure sustainable use, management, protection and conservation of natural resources to support long term sustainable economic development; improve the environmental quality in Lao Cities and rural areas to ensure better quality of life of Lao people; Ensure Lao PDR is informed and prepared for adapting climate change, responding to climate change impacts (natural disasters) and contributing to global greenhouse gas emission reductions; Ensure effective and collaborative implementation of MoNRE vision, strategy and action plan including multilateral environmental agreements related to natural resources and environment to ensure mutual benefits and to reduce cumulative and trans-boundary impacts; Ensure MoNRE has capacity to achieve the MoNRE mandate.
Korea and Laos cooperated in various fields since their reestablishment in 1995. What is the current collaboration between Korea and Laos, and what do you think is its future outlook?
The Lao PDR and the Republic of Korea has established its own diplomatic relationship in 1974 then was delayed and reopened again on 25 October 1995 due to our own conditions and the environment.
In order to continue our strong relationship and good friendship, Lao PDR and the Republic of Korea have long stand cooperated in widely many field such as healthcare, trade, investment, education, agriculture, ICT, rural development, tourism, vocational training and the assistance of each side on natural disaster and the outbreak of diseases. Well, if we have a look from previous time and nowadays, our environment collaboration is at a high level on the way of constructive, friendly relation and good cooperation.
For the future, Laos and Korea have a very promising future together; we highly value our bilateral relationship, especially Korean’s contribution through to the development of Laos through official development assistance and also through support in human resources development.
This has laid the ground work for further cooperation and mutually beneficial collaboration between our two countries. Our relationship has been on the basis of equality, mutual benefit and complementarity, so our bilateral cooperation cannot go backward. It can only grow further in the coming years. And despite the challenges and developments in the region and international area, we will continue to be a good partner. Also in recent years, we have seen Korean businesses and cooperation projects in our country yield good result, we will continue in that spirit in the future.
On the basis of the good Laos-ROK relations, we are confident that our bilateral cooperation will continue to strengthen and broaden, particularly in terms of increased trade and investment in areas where both sides have great potential including peopleto-people exchange, thereby further elevating our bilateral ties to a higher plane.
Finally, please say something to Future Eco readers.
As one of the small countries, Laos is an emerging nation with numerous ongoing activities as a mainstream of a long and short - term national development agenda aiming to push GDP growth rate remains increase year by year. However, though it seems that core policy is more focused on development in all priority sectors, most of them have been merged with the SDGs, Green Growth, and global agreement on combat climate change. This will ensure sustainable and eco-friendly development.
Regarding those essential points discussed above, the most important thing, arguably, to combat climate change is to providing education to individuals, instilling the negative implication of global warming, and increasing the awareness of social responsibility. This is because climate change is not only mainly under someone or some organization’s shoulder; it needed the convenient cooperation efforts of the individual to achieve the attainable goal. Personally, the utilization of other material products rather than plastic bags is a minor effort I can do contributing the responsibility to society. Therefore, I am sure that if everyone can bear thisburden, we can succeed within the timeframe. Thank you.
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