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Govt, UNDP agree project to conserve Savannakhet's ecosystems PDF ພິມ ອີເມລ
ຂຽນໂດຍ ສົມອຸລາ ຍະພິຈິດ   
ວັນອັງຄານທີ່ 24 ພຶດສະພາ 2016 ເວລາ 14: 59

Ms Kaarina Immonen shakes hands with Mr Sommad Pholsena
at the project signing ceremony.

(Vientiane Times) The government of Laos has just signed a new UNDP programme funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF), which is set to conserve and manage forests in five districts of Savannakhet province, over the next six years.

The programme was signed on Friday by UNDP Resident Representative and UN Resident Coordinator in Laos Ms Kaarina Immonen and Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Mr Sommad Pholsena.

The project, titled Sustainable Forest and Land Management in the Dry Dipterocarp Ecosystems of Southern Laos, will be financed by US$10.8 million from the GEF as well as US$1.2 million from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Ms Immonen emphasised the project's contribution towards achieving Laos' national objectives.

“The overall goal of the country, as outlined in the National Socio-Economic Development Plan, is to graduate from Least Developed Country status,” she said.

“The development of the protected area network can support this goal through enhanced livelihoods, income generation, environmental sustainability and disaster risk reduction. The project also helps to reach Laos' forest cover target of 70 percent by 2020.”

UNDP will implement the project in partnership with the Department of Forest Resources Management in the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment. Dipterocarps are a tree species prevalent in South East Asia, valuable for their resin and timber.

Dry dipterocarp forests are under pressure as large areas have been converted into farmland to plant cash crops, and other activities such as logging, hunting and harvesting of non-timber forest products all contribute to the degradation of this environment. Savannakhet province, however, has managed to retain large areas of this forest type.

Dry dipterocarp forests in the Lower Mekong region are of global priority for biodiversity conservation, because they contain an exceptionally wide variety of animals and plants and are representative of this ecosystem type.

In Laos, this habitat is home to globally significant species such as the Eld's Deer, which is threatened and currently numbers only 30-40 individuals in the country.

These forests also regulate groundwater supplies through absorbing rainwater in tree roots and leaves, reduce greenhouse gases and store valuable carbon as well as stabilise slopes by binding soil into the ground.

Additionally, the forests are important for local communities as they provide for a diversified diet with non-timber forest products such as fruits, mushrooms and insects.

Recognising the global and national importance of these forests, Laos has prioritised their conservation and sustainable management.

The project will seek to ensure that partnerships are built to coordinate the management of protected areas, enhance community forestry and livelihoods, as well as promote the development of eco-tourism activities.

Protected areas in Laos are profitable assets due to their development potential and the value of their natural resources which can contribute to economic growth.

Creating incentives to conserve and sustainably manage these forests is central to the project.

To support the government in its endeavour to effectively manage the country's unique natural resources, improve livelihoods and develop new opp ortunities for income generation, UNDP has partnered with other development entities to ensure synergies with on-going projects in Savannakhet province.

These include the Asian Development Bank, WWF-Laos and the UNDP-UNEP Poverty Environment Initiative, all providing complementary financing.

The government will also contribute in-kind through national, provincial and istrict offices that will work directly within the project areas.