Lao PDR possesses significant natural resource assets, but the forest cover has been decreasing due to threats stemming from logging, agriculture expansion, hydro-electricity projects, and mining.The depletion of natural resources, especially forest and biodiversity, was one of the country’s main challenges at the time of project appraisal. Rapid hydropower and mining development also posed environmental and social challenges, especially the relocation of ethnic groups. National policy focusing on economic growth and poverty reduction also potentially led to adverse environmental and social impacts. The legal and policy framework for social and environmental management were not strongly implemented.
In 2005, the Environment Protection Fund (EPF) was established by the Government of Lao PDR with support from the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank as an administratively and financially autonomous organization to finance environmental protection, sustainable natural resource management, biodiversity conservation, and community development in Lao PDR. The project has supported the EPF’s capacity building for sub-project marketing, development, implementation and monitoring.
This project helped strengthen capacity for the formulation and implementation of environmental and social policy and practices, and for biodiversity conservation and livelihood improvements in and around protected areas. The project has also improved local procedures and capacity for environmental planning and management through partnership arrangements involving communities, local governments, and civil society organizations in three central Lao provinces.
Since the beginning of the project in 2005, important results include:
- 100% of new hydropower and mining concessions include a Standard Environment and Social Obligation.
- 535 Lao students already benefited from the new curricula on resettlement development by the Faculty of Social Science of the National University of Laos in collaboration with a university in China.
- 131 people from central and provincial government agencies and private sector participated in social safeguard training programs.
- 12 communities established a new conservation/livelihood model – the Community Conservation Network (CCN) – in the Nam Theun-Nam Kading basin. CCN is a novel approach to promote conservation activities and livelihood options for local people by building ownership, commitment and capacity of provincial authorities and local communities.
- 6 Provincial Protected Areas, totaling 169,000 hectares, have developed a management plan and partially implemented it.
- 3 provinces have designed and adopted Provincial Environment Strategy and Action Plan (PESAP), two of which have tested project tracking databases and community grievance mechanisms.
- 152 subgrants physically and financially completed, benefitting over 16,700 people including 6,050 women in more than 200 communities.
- 99 people have been trained to participate in village grievance committees and use the national guideline for ethnic groups’ consultation developed by the project
- One river basin committee, the Nam Theun Nam Kading RBC, was established and its strategy designed and adopted.