The Department of Forestry, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, and Nam Theun 2 Power Company signed the Agreement of Elephant and Swamp Cypress in Vientiane, Laos on 31 May.
The agreement was signed between Mr. Sousath Sayakoummane, Director General of the Department of Forestry, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, and Mr. Marc-Antoine Rupp, Chief Executive Officer of Nam Theun 2 Power Company.
Present at the ceremony were representatives of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Nam Theun 2 Power Company, the Khammouane Province, the District of Nakai, the Nakai-Nam Theun National Park, and the National University of Laos.
The agreement covers voluntary CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) funding from Nam Theun 2, providing financial support to the Department of Forestry of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry of up to USD 250,000 over the span of 5 years targeted at the conservation efforts of endangered species in the Nam Theun 2 project area – The Asian Elephant and the Chinese Swamp Cypress.
Speaking at the ceremony, Nam Theun 2’s CEO stated that Nam Theun 2 is at a transitional period of the company, aiming to empower Lao local authorities to continue to build on achievements until the end of the concession in 2035. “Since 2005, Nam Theun 2 has funded over a dozen social and environmental programs, amounting to a total of over USD 170 million. Although most of the obligations of the concession agreement have already been met and even exceeded, environmental & social aspects continue to be our core priority and we want, through this voluntary funding to raise awareness of the importance of biodiversity conservation and support the transition phase with the Government of Laos,” said Mr. Rupp.
The Asian Elephant program was implemented by the project in 2004. The activities consisted of the study of the wild elephant population in the Nam Theun 2 project area, the replenishment of mineral licks to ensure sufficient nutrition for the animals with the cooperation of WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society) and the Nakai DAFO (District Agriculture and Forestry Office).
Based on an initial field survey of the elephant population, 132 animals were documented on the Nakai Plateau. After the reservoir impoundment in April 2008 for the 1,080MW Nam Theun 2 hydroelectric project, the elephants migrated to new sources of food in the Thalang and Thongkong areas, and into the Nakai – Nam Theun National Park.
Aside from conservation efforts, empowering local authorities such as the Nakai district’s agriculture and forestry office has been crucial to the program with workshops and training held by international experts in the field. Substantial herds of wild Asian elephants, with several young individuals, are regularly spotted on the Nam Theun 2 reservoir or in Nakai-Nam Theun National Park, which demonstrates the positive benefits of the implemented program.
The Chinese Swam Cypress (Glyptostrobus pensilis) is a rare tree species found only in Laos, Vietnam and China. This swamp cypress has been classified as an endangered species by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) and in Laos, there are only 593 trees recorded in Nakai Plateau. Initial efforts consisted of developing methodologies and techniques to germinate seedlings with the cooperation of international experts, aiming to rehabilitate the swamp cypress in the Nakai – Nam Theun National Park. Today, 100 young trees have been successfully planted and developed in the natural habitat, under close monitoring.