Lao authorities acknowledge that the rapid expansion of Vientiane, Laos’ capital, without careful planning and strict compliance with regulations has led to widespread encroachment and destruction of the city’s wetlands and agricultural land areas.
The acknowledgment came from Mr. Daophet Aloun, Director-General of the Sciences and Technology Department, who said the most serious concern stemming from the on-going development of Vientiane capital was the massive destruction of the environment and agricultural lands surrounding the city, caused by the rapid urbanization and expansion of residential and industrial areas.
Especially hard hit are the wetlands, canals and lakes, which help protect Vientiane capital from floods during heavy rain periods, and serve as biodiversity-rich food sources as well as important irrigation sources for agriculture. These water bodies are being encroached upon and seriously damaged due to unchecked expansion of residential and industrial areas that lack careful planning and/or compliance with governing rules and laws.
This negative impact was also confirmed by Mr. Saithong Keodouangdy, Mayor of Chanthabouly - one of the most rapidly expanding districts of Vientiane, who raised his concerns among local and business people over the long-term effect of the widespread encroachment of wetlands, canals and lakes, such as Nong Tha Lake, in suburban Vientiane, arguing that this situation could lead to many problems in the future.
In Vientiane capital, there are over 20 wetlands and water bodies that play a vital role in protecting the city from being flooded and supplying foods to residents. Among these, Beung That Luang, Nong Makkhai and Nong Tha lakes, are the most important water resources for Vientiane capital.
However, a 50-year concession granted by the Lao government to a Chinese investment group to build a new economic and urban center on a 1,000 hectare area of the Beung That Luang wetlands in exchange for its help in building the new stadium that was used as the main venue for the 25th SEA Games that Laos hosted on December 9-18, has again raised environmentalists’ concern as they find that development of this wetlands area will inevitably create negative impact on the environment of the That Luang wetlands.
The Lao government has also granted a 50-year concession to a Vietnamese business group to conduct a feasibility study in the Nong Tha Lake area of Chanthabouly district, aiming to turn 75-hectares of the wetlands surrounding the lake into a new residential area and business center of Vientiane capital. According VOA Bangkok stringer, this feasibility study will be completed in March, next month, and the project will start soon after.
This project has also raised fear among many people as they argue that it could create a significant impact on the environment and natural resources of Vientiane capital, if the environmental and social impact studies fail to meet international standards.
Songrit Pongern reported in Lao from Bangkok on 12 Feb. 2010