About Lao PDR
About Lao PDR
Geographically located in the heart of South East Asia, the Lao Peoples' Democratic Republic (Lao PDR) is bordered by China, Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia and Vietnam.
Lao PDR's comparatively undeveloped natural environment, along with its small population of approximately 6.5 million, propounds the myth of Lao PDR as an undiscovered ‘treasure' in the region.
Despite the common perception of Lao PDR as protected by isolation, the country has begun to think of itself as ‘land-linked' rather than ‘land-locked'. Lao PDR is taking part in the trends of integration and cooperation that have come to define the mainland Southeast Asia region. This means that the challenges are mounting for the ability of the Government of Lao PDR (GoL) to manage its natural heritage and promote the wellbeing of its people. Yet the GoL has made encouraging progress in improving the overall national framework for conservation and development. In addition to the enabling policy and legal environment, the GoL is seriously considering its obligations and opportunities under the international environmental agreements to which it is party.
In terms of the natural environment, Lao PDR is arguably the keystone of the region. This is particularly true with regards to biological diversity, forest cover and water resources. Lao PDR's environmental endowments represent a heritage of critical natural, cultural and economic values at the regional and global level. The natural resource base will continue to be the backbone of the Lao economy for the foreseeable future, and this same dependence will place enormous pressures on the integrity of Lao PDR's ecosystems.
Lao PDR currently possesses one of the highest levels of poverty in the world and is typified by intense human dependence on biodiversity and natural resources for livelihoods, such as the provision of fish and aquatic resources that comprise up to 90% of locals' diets, and the reliance on non-timber forest products (NTFP), which account for an estimated 30% of Lao PDR's Gross National Product (Emerton 2005).