The EU in cooperation with Agence Francaise de Developpement (AFD) in Laos has agreed to provide €6.5 million ($7.7 million) in support to protect biodiversity and implement integrated management of biodiversity-rich areas in Laos.
This project is being implemented by the NGO Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and financed thanks to a €5 million grant from the EU and a €1.5 million grant from AFD.
The initiative will implement integrated management of three biodiversity-rich areas comprising Nam Et Phou Louey National Park, Huaphan province, parts of Borikhamsay province and the Xe Champhone Ramsar wetland in Savannakhet.
The agreement was signed at the Residence of France recently by EU ambassador to Laos Leo Faber and AFD director for Laos Matthieu Bommier, with French ambassador to Laos Florence Jeanblanc-Risler in attendance.
The ceremony was witnessed by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry’s Department of Planning and Finance deputy director-general Dr Phommy Inthachack and the ministry’s Department of Forestry deputy director-general Santhong Southammakoth.
Bommier remarked that “The protection of biodiversity is a priority for AFD, particularly given the COP15 meeting [15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties] on biodiversity scheduled to take place in Kunming in early 2021”.
Further cooperation between the EU, AFD, WCS and the Lao authorities was in the interests of people and the environment, he said.
He noted that AFD has been financing a biodiversity protection project in the Nam Kading National Protected Area since the end of 2018.
Last year, AFD and the EU decided to extend their support to new areas distinguished by the richness of their biodiversity – Nam Et-Phou Louey National Park and Xe Champhone Ramsar wetland, he said.
He added that the project’s objectives include implementing an integrated landscape approach with communities and public administrations, but also supporting communities and farmers in their empowerment through the development of biodiversity conservation enterprises and involving the private sector in mitigating the social and environmental impacts of major investments and infrastructure projects.
Work will be carried out in parallel with local and central authorities to feed into national policies and strengthen the governance of protected areas in Laos, he said.
The EU ambassador said Laos is home to some world-class rainforests, with exceptional biodiversity, including hundreds of threatened species, making the country an evolutionary hotspot of diversity.
Faber added that Laos also boasts unique and globally significant biodiversity; the Greater Annamites has the highest concentration of endemic species for a continental area in the world and is ranked as one of the world’s 200 most important bioregions.
The establishment of Laos’ protected area system in the 1990s strongly represents the country’s unique biogeography, he said.
The network of National Protected Areas covers roughly 15 per cent of the country’s total land area, he said. Despite this extensive network of protected areas, the country’s forest estate and biodiversity have been strongly affected by human activities.
To promote better management of protected areas and secure the countries unique natural capital, he said, it is essential to develop technical, institutional and financial models that enable the enforcement of regulations, empower local communities to better steward natural resources, and engage private companies in green business practices that leverage conservation financing.
VIENTIANE TIMES/ASIA NEWS NETWORK