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Officials, experts debate environmental issues

Officials, experts debate environmental issues

Vientiane Times, 15 Oct 2009

Lao government officials met yesterday in Vientiane with experts from
around the region to share experiences and knowledge in managing
climate, the environment and natural resources.

The National Workshop on Managing Climate, Environment and Natural
Resources to Achieve Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) was part of
efforts to help the government remove Laos from the UN's list of least
developed nations.

Laos is highly dependent on natural resources for income, employment,
food, livelihoods and exports, and sound environmental management is
of great importance, said Deputy Director General of the Department of
Planning of the Ministry of Planning and Investment, Ms Phonevanh

She said over 80 percent of the Lao population depend on natural
resources for their daily livelihoods. Selling forest products is an
important income source for villagers, as well as serving dietary and
medicinal purposes.

The workshop comes at an important point in time, providing an
opportunity for keynote experts from around the region to present
critical poverty-environment links for their possible inclusion in the
7th National Socio-Economic Development Plan as it is developed by the
Ministry of Planning and Investment.

The challenges confronting Laos in environmental protection and
climate change are diverse and will significantly impact on government
goals set to ensure removal from the list of least developed countries
by 2020.

Climate change will increase the intensity of extreme weather events
such as floods and droughts, and will affect progress towards the
achievement of all of the MDGs, according to a press release from
United Nations Development Programme.

The government must ensure that investment projects are designed with
increased resilience to withstand stronger floods and health
programmes must be designed to cope with increasing incidence of water
and vector-borne diseases such as malaria.

The agriculture sector needs to consider changes in water availability
and the need for improved irrigation facilities as well as more
drought resistant species; and other sectors must also respond

The havoc wreaked by tropical storm Ketsana highlights the urgent need
to effectively address the current and projected impacts of climate
change in Laos .

The storm hit the four southern provinces of Savannakhet, Saravan,
Attapeu and Xekong, affecting 360 villages in 18 districts. Widespread
flooding has left thousands of people homeless, with hundreds losing
all of their belongings.

By integrating climate change into national sector planning now, and
by anticipating the impacts of climate change rather than reacting to
the impacts, the costs incurred by the Lao people and country can be

Recent analysis indicates that the poor continue to suffer as the
environment and natural resources upon which they depend are being

Household nutrition is being affected by decreased availability of
wild foods, health is being affected by poor water quality and over
use of agricultural chemicals, and climate change is generating more
frequent and extreme weather events such as the devastating floods of
2008. Levels of vulnerability are increasing as the social safety nets
of the poor are being eroded.

Private investment in agriculture, forestry and mining is rapidly
increasing with actual and potential positive and negative impacts on
poverty reduction and environmental sustainability.

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