Category Archives: Environment

Lumberings & Longings: Trials, Tales As Domesticated Elephants, Handlers Adjust to A New Era in Laos

Laos Mahout

Like wildlife in biological hotspots worldwide, Laos’ wild and domesticated elephants alike are facing a time of rapid and significant change, amid increased man-made developments and a fast-changing natural and socio-economic environment, Laotian Times writes.

Climate Change: Taming the Waters in Laos’ Xayaboury Province

Villages work with UNDP in Xayaboury for the SDGs on Hunger and Climate Change

Helping farmers in their efforts to adjust to climate change in Laos’ Xayaboury Province alongside Lao government partners, The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) was active back in 2015. Now, almost four years later, a return to one of the villages revealed how they have managed to cope with changing weather conditions.

 

The UNDP writes:

Vientiane –
The Sustainable Development Goals, adopted by the global community in 2015,  compels us at UNDP Lao PDR to take even more responsibility to ensure that our projects do not only offer a temporary sigh of relief to struggling communities in Lao PDR, but that they serve as an enduring foundation on which they can begin to build a more sustainable future for themselves.

That is why in February 2019, UNDP, along with members of the Green Climate Fund and representatives of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment and the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, took a trip to Nasom Village in Xayaboury Province to catch up with some old friends made during a project entitled “Improving the Resilience of the Agricultural Sector to Climate Change”, which was implemented between 2011-2015.

In the early 2000s, the farming population of Nasom had difficulties in adjusting to a phenomenon most of them had probably never even heard of: climate change. Although the small village nestled in a modest valley between the lush hillsides of northern Laos had occasionally suffered from floods, the usual predictability of seasons had become a thing of the past.

While the rainy seasons seemed to gradually get more intense, the dry seasons were getting hotter and drier, barely offering a shower for the rice fields of the village, which resulted in bad harvests. As rice was the primary ingredient of the rather stoic daily diet of the villagers, a bad harvest often marked a serious menace of malnutrition. Even if the farmers could feed themselves with stocks in case of a bad harvest, not being able to sell any surplus at the local market meant a significant dip in their yearly incomes.

Either too much or too little water for irrigating the paddy fields was the biggest challenge for the villagers. The project, implemented by UNDP, the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, wanted to devise a way in which they could manage and utilize the dramatically varying rates of rainfall as efficiently as possible.

The project laid out a plan to dig numerous reservoirs in the village in which the rain could be stored throughout the year. Irrigation canals were built through which the villagers could regulate the flow of the standing water to their paddy fields during different seasons.

The ponds were filled with fish to give villagers an additional source of protein. As fish like to indulge in the mosquito larvae that breed particularly in standing waters, they would also protect the villagers from the deathly threat of malaria.

When the project ended in 2014, the results were fantastic. Villagers no longer went hungry and they could once again plan their harvests despite the changing weather patterns. However, it is not uncommon in development work that such achievements slowly fade away as years pass by and the community’s lack of resources or expertise for maintenance take a toll them.

In this case, the concern proved unfounded. Even after four years, the ponds were filled with water, teeming with fish. Even the devastating floods of 2018 that ravaged each province of Lao PDR had not caused the reservoirs to overflow.

“After the project, we have lived much better. Because we have enough water to irrigate the rice fields, we are producing much more food than before”, says Mr. Khamsao, one of the beneficiaries of the project as he takes us around the reservoirs.

The successful project had created further waves in the village: Some villagers had dug their own reservoirs, carved their own irrigation canals and also filled them with fish. In the spirit of true Lao solidarity, the farmers who had originally benefited from the project had allowed others to direct water from the big reservoirs to newly constructed smaller. This water could then be used to irrigate other farm areas. As with the original project, the results had been excellent.

This kind of creative and cooperative spirit is exactly what is needed to achieve the ambitious goals outlined in the 2030 Agenda. Villagers of Nasom show that innovation not only occurs in Silicon Valley or world-class universities but is something that even deprived communities engage in, as long as they are given the opportunity to do so.


United Nations Development Group

The Laotian Times reports on and supports efforts to address climate change and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals in Laos and beyond.

Villages work with UNDP in Xayaboury for the SDGs on Hunger and Climate Change

Villages work with UNDP in Xayaboury for the SDGs on Hunger and Climate Change

 

Act Green for Greener Mekong River As Efforts Rewarded via Social Media

Act Green, Get Clean with Mekong River Commission

The Mekong River is a source of water for millions, the world’s most productive freshwater fishery, and a lifeline shared by people of five nations. What better reasons to “Act Green for a Greener Mekong”?

Now, our own green actions have a chance to be recognized and rewarded as the region celebrates Mekong Day on 4 April 2019.

To be eligible for a reward, first you’ll have to be a fan of the Mekong River Commission on Facebook.

After that, all you have to do is:

a) take a photo or/and video of your green action.

b) post on your Facebook in public mode with hashtags #GreenMekongDay and #MekongRiverCommission.

You can share with what are you doing to achieve green goals such as to reduce plastic bags, recycle waste and encourage others to be green and create as many posts on these topics as you’d like until March 29, 2019.

Go Green with the Mekong River Commission

Going  Green with the Mekong River Commission

The MRC will select each week top 10 of Facebook posts with the most interactions (likes, shares, and comments) to select one Winner of the week who will receive a prize of US$50.

The top posts/photos/videos will be showcased at a ceremony for Mekong Day 2019 in Vientiane, Lao PDR.

Please spread the word to your friends. And let’s act for a greener Mekong!

#GreenMekongDay #MekongRiverCommission #MRC

 Mekong (Lancang) River Basin
Mekong River Commission

Mekong River Commission

The Vientiane Village Chief Stamping Out Garbage Fires

Village Chief of Sangveuy Stamps out Garbage Fires

Each and every morning, the loudspeakers in Vientiane’s Sangveuy Village, of Sisattanak District, can be heard sending out a special message from the Village Chief, Mr Oudomxay Sisomphone.  His message is clear and concise: stop burning garbage, and stop littering. A breath of fresh air to some, and a stern warning to others.

Mr Oudomxay, who gave an interview to the Lao Post, says he decided to take real action against the problem of garbage fires in order to clean up the air in his local area, and encourage villagers to take care of their health.  And he says the law is on his side.

Regulations against the practice have been issued, including Instruction by the Mayor of Vientiane, No. 002/MV, and several notices issued by the Head of Sisattanak District, as well as the official village regulations. According to these regulations, the burning of household waste is prohibited across Vientiane Capital. But many villages are unwilling or unable to deal with the problem.

“I like to keep my village clean. And the village authorities in my village take air pollution very seriously,” says Mr Oudomxay.

“This problem is only getting worse. Fumes from garbage fires are one factor contributing to pollution, and are a nuisance for people nearby who may experience difficulty breathing. This is also a major fire risk.”

Sangveuy village holds regular clean-up sessions on Saturday mornings, when residents gather together to pick up garbage and clean the village.  Areas of dense scrub are also cleared to make the village more attractive.

“We’ve had many foreign residents coming to our office to lodge complaints because these fires are harmful to their health, especially to children. I want all residents of Sangveuy, whether foreign or local, to live in a healthy and sanitary environment,” said Mr Oudomxay.

Mr Oudomxay says his village has also commenced an inspection and education program for offenses related to littering or burning waste. He has put measures in place to punish those found guilty, including monetary fines, and regularly checks for villagers flouting the rules.

He encourages all residents of Vientiane to take a stand against air pollution, and report incidents to local authorities.

Photo: Lao Post

Farmers Like Her: Surpassing Opium Proves Personal As Coffee Grows in Northern Laos’ Huaphan Province

Coffee farmer Ms Her from Huaphan.
Bringing fresh hope and a hot coffee like a brand new day, Vanmai Coffee is a community of families in Northern Laos, growing coffee in a bid to leave behind troubles of opium, conflict, and poverty.
Ms Her has a cheeky smile and a weathered grin may remind you of one of your own Aunties. The mother of four’s visage is hearty enough to put a smile on your face like a strong and flavourful morning cup of coffee.
Farmers Switching From Opium Poppies to Coffee Beans in Laos' Huaphan Province with Vanmai Coffee

Farmers Switching From Opium Poppies to Coffee Beans in Laos’ Huaphan Province with Vanmai Coffee

Emerging from around the corner on a cool day among the clouds with a smile, its a warm greeting among the young coffee trees at the cool and high elevations of Laos’ northern Huaphan province.

It’s not only the trees that are growing up. The coffee farming industry up year is younger than the grower.

Producing the popular bean-containing cherries essential to the bittersweet brew is a relatively new pursuit in these hilly parts.

In fact, the trees are so young they are yet to produce their first harvest, which can be expected following the third monsoon, proving that farming truly can be an investment in a more hopeful future.

The previous crop up here?

Opium poppies.

 

 

Farmers Like Ms Her Switching From Opium Poppies to Coffee Beans in Laos' Huaphan Province with Vanmai Coffee

Farmers Like Ms Her Switching From Opium Poppies to Coffee Beans in Laos’ Huaphan Province with Vanmai Coffee

A source of both pain-relief and the suffering of dependency and its side effects, the sap producing opium poppy has been an economic staple, a source of income for many of the hardworking farmers of Huaphan for generations.

For some, like Her’s husband, the substance was to prove a fatal addiction.

Listening to her words and the dangers becomes of dependency on the illicit trade become clear.

“Opium has taken away our lives, it took my husband.”

“I mean I never knew that I would end up here,” she reveals.

“I got married to a handsome man in my village.”

“He was a diligent man who knew how to earn money and make sure his family had enough food.

“I loved him and I was happy, we never got married but we stayed together.

“After we got the news that I had given birth to a baby boy, everyone was so happy.

“In our tribe, a son is a gift who will be a successor of the father.

“Our families were so happy that my first child was a son, my husband was also very happy, our life was going very well.

“I then gave birth to two daughters and a son after that as well.

“We had four children who helped us and we worked together as a family like other families in our community.

“We made a living farming together and worked on saving for our children and their education.”

Farmers Like Ms Her Switching From Opium Poppies to Coffee Beans in Laos' Huaphan Province with Vanmai Coffee

Farmers Like Ms Her Switching From Opium Poppies to Coffee Beans in Laos’ Huaphan Province with Vanmai Coffee

 
 “But once my husband got addicted to opium, our lives changed.

“He became a different husband and a different father. After a while he couldn’t even work because he was ill so often.

“The family situation got worse. Everyone else had to work more to eat.

“Eventually, both my daughters grew up, got married and left the home.

“My husband became worse and was not able to cope with his symptoms. He died at age 49. 

“I know that my life has no miracles in store, but all I want is a better future for my son than I had.”

“I know that my life has no miracles in store, but all I want is a better future for my son than I had.” – Farmer Ms Her

“I know that my life has no miracles in store, but all I want is a better future for my son than I had.”

My oldest son is addicted to opium now.

“After my husband died, my son was imprisoned for his opium use.

“He was in jail for three months.

“They put him through quarantine so they could get him out of his addiction.

“But after he got out of prison his behavior just got worse and he even threatened to use the little money I saved on opium.

“He has moved out now, found a girl and they live together. They will get married soon.

“I thought that maybe if he gets himself a wife then she will be able to help him out of addiction but I don’t know anymore.

“He is still the same. It makes me sad to see my son becoming like his father.”  

“So many times I think I do not want to live on this earth anymore. But I still have my son.

“I have been working alone trying to earn and make a living for my youngest son.

“So I fight for him. He is 11 years old and he is my only hope.

“Ineed to teach him to be a good person.

“So I put all my energy into growing upland rice and now coffee, and I am saving income to buy his school materials and a new uniform.

“I know that my life has no miracles in store, but all I want is a better future for my son than I had.”

Vanmai coffee is supported by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime’s (UNODC) alternative development programme in Lao PDR helping farmers move from cultivating opium to cash crops such as coffee. 

Text Credit: Laotian Times & Van Mai Coffee

Nakhon Phanom Ivory Haul & Bokeo SEZ Seizures Evidence of Disturbing Extent of Illegal Wildlife Trade

Ivory seized in Nakhon Phanom smuggled from Laos' Khammuan province.

Thai Police in Nakhon Phanom province have seized 930 items of ivory weighing some 22 kg from a Vietnamese national attempting to bring them across the international frontier from Laos’ Khammouane province, Thai news media reported Monday.

The case follows another major seizure in Laos Bokeo province on December 13 confirmed by World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).

In the Khammuan-Nakhon Phanom smuggling seizure case, the alleged suspect, a Ms Than Nguen Kee Thanh, 43, was taken into custody at the Thai border checkpoint on Sunday after she arrived by bus from Thakhek in the Lao province of Khammuan, the provincial customs chief Naratchapol Lertratchatapasorn confirmed, Bangkok Post reported Monday.

Ivory seized in Nakhon Phanom smuggled from Laos Khammouane.

Ivory seized in Nakhon Phanom smuggled from Laos’ Khammouane.

The Nation reported that “officials were conducting a routine check of the bus and the travel documents of passengers at the Third Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge’s border checkpoint in Nakhon Phanom’s Muang district when the discovery was made.”

“The woman claimed she was given Bt2,000 just before she boarded the bus from Laos to take the bag to an unknown recipient at the Nakhon Phanom bus terminal.”

Ivory seized in Nakhon Phanom smuggled from Laos' Khammuan province.

Ivory seized in Nakhon Phanom smuggled from Laos’ Khammuan province.

 

The move comes after raids and recent seizures of five outlets at a Special Economic Zone in Bokeo province on December 13 in the country’s North-West, near the frontier with Myanmar, undertaken by Lao authorities and documented by World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).

The enforcement is follows a Prime Ministerial order issued 8 May 2018 on the strengthening of the management and control of wildlife and wildlife in Laos.

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF-Laos) welcomed the law enforcement measures, particularly the implementation of Order No. 05, which it said provided for the conservation of wildlife and stop illegal and endangered wildlife trade in Laos.

Images Credit WWF in Laos








The seizures while significant is unlikely to be the last while demand persists for the material and ringleaders remain out of reach.

Say no to Ivory says China's basketball hero Yao Ming.

Say no to Ivory says China’s basketball hero Yao Ming via billboard in Vientiane, Laos.Campaigns to change behavior like that led by China’s basketballer Yao Ming are being welcomed as a way to stem demand by helping to make ivory “uncool”. It is hoped that these can find results in time to save key and iconic species of the natural world.

Say no to Ivory says China's basketball hero Yao Ming.

Responsible tourists don’t buy Ivory, China’s first ever NBA basketball hero Yao Ming tells visitors to Laos.

“Space data offers instant clues to cause of deadly Laos dam disaster”: Stanford Professor

Space data provides clues in Saddle Dam Collapse hypothesis.

Space data gleaned from satellites has been used to create a hypothesis on the cause of the collapse of the saddle dam D at the Xe Pian Xe Namnoy project in Attepeu province.

Bangkok-based professor Richard Meehan from Stanford University in the United States’ has been investigating the dam’s failure from Bangkok using new space technologies, according to a report published via the Blume Earthquake Engineering Center website on October 26.

According to the center, Meehan began his engineering career designing and building dams in Thailand and teaches at Stanford’s School of Earth Sciences.

The failure hypothesis goes as follows: on the first filling of the reservoir, a wave of groundwater from the main reservoir pushed southwest eventually filling the dry basin behind the saddle dam with 20 m of water,” Professor Meehan wrote.

“The progress of the underground wave can be tracked by rising springs visible on cloud-piercing satellite images from the Sentinel 1 satellite.

“Rising water pressures, still within the normal operating specifications for the project but unprecedented in geological time, enlarged underground free-draining conduits within the naturally fragile basalt ridge line that supported the new saddle dam.

“With a rising water level and loss of support, the brittle earth fill dam began to sink into the void and crack extensively.

“The rising reservoir then cascaded over or through the fragmented crest, washing away the remnants of the dam and fifteen meters of erodible foundation and spilling, late at night, half a billion cubic meters of water and debris.

“This muddy flood plunged over the precipice of a downstream touristic waterfall onto small villages hundreds of meters below with tragic consequences.”

His report found that “satellite ground elevation data and imagery, when combined with readily available archival information from mineral explorations, along with experience on dam projects in similar terrain in nearby Northeast Thailand and in other comparable areas of tropical soils, show that this extended western arm of the reservoir was built on a sinkhole a dry basin that probably never, even over millennia, had retained any of the heavy (1-4 meters) summer rainfall that drenched the plateau, famous for coffee growing and waterfalls.”

“The new and immediately available global satellite data allow for a synthesis of failure explanations into a hypothesis that is both specific to the project but also carries broader implications for this type of development.”

Plastic-free, Climate-friendly: Mekong Boat Race Crew, UN Hit the H20 in Laos

Thapha village boat racing team

 

“The recent floods around the country have made it clear; Water is both a life resource and a threatening factor. The Thapha village team, in Vientiane province’s Hadxayfong district, takes a leap towards climate action, in urging us all to stop using single-use plastic bags, cups and bottles, to keep the beautiful Mekong river clean.

– United Nations in Lao PDR,
October 24, 2018
#UNDay2018

With the full moon finale to Buddhist Lent Wednesday and annual boat racing events Thursday, Laos and its capital’s downtown riverside are alive with festive fever once again.

In a certain corollary with traditional New Year celebrations in April, water will once again be at the heart of the celebration in the Lao capital.

This time, the precious element will provide centre stage as crews of 20 odd battle for supremacy on the Mekong River in front of cheering multitudes once again.

Sadly, another similarity between this and other festivals will bin the tonnes of waste generated in the form of single-use plastics, some of which will end up in the famed waterway.

Reducing this is toll is a goal shared by policymakers and urban authorities in the capital with support from civil society groups and from the UN and its relevant agencies.

Of course, the boat racing celebrations are a popular release after three lunar months of Lenten “rains retreat” observed in various forms by the ordained monks and novices and a great many lay devotees among the majority Buddhist nation.

Amid celebrations sacred and civil, there is also a time to reflect upon the power of water to give and take.

The flash flooding disaster in Sanamxay district, Attapeu province as a result of a saddle dam collapse was the most damaging and high profile of several weather-related or exacerbated disasters in Laos this year.

Water was a major factor in the disasters that exerted costs on peoples lives. At the same time, water also makes life possible.

At the same time, single-use plastic is choking rivers and oceans, posing the water that we drink. Water-related disasters such as flash floods and tsunami lead not only to human losses but also the release of vasts amounts of plastic and other pollution.

Putting people at the heart of the solutions has seen the UN in Lao PDR put its shoulder behind a crew of rowers from a rural part of the rapidly urbanizing capital to help spread the message of individual and collective climate action and the reduction of single-use plastic, as captured in this video:

UN in Lao PDR supports Thapha village boat racing team

[Scroll down for English] ໄພນໍ້າຖ້ວມໃນທົ່ວປະເທດເມື່ອບໍ່ດົນມານີ້ ເຫັນໄດ້ຊັດເຈນວ່າ ນໍ້າເປັນທັງແຫຼ່ງຊັບພະຍາກອນສຳລັບການດຳລົງຊີວິດ ແລະ ເປັນທັງໄພຄຸກຄາມຕໍ່ການດຳລົງຊີວິດ. ການປ່ຽນແປງຂອງສະພາບດິນຟ້າອາກາດ ໄດ້ກໍ່ໃຫ້ເກີດເຫດການໄພພິບັດທາງທຳມະຊາດທີ່ຮ້າຍແຮງ ແລະ ພວກເຮົາທັງໝົດຕ້ອງມີສ່ວນຮ່ວມໃນການຮັບມືກັບການປ່ຽນແປງຂອງສະພາບດິນຟ້າອາກາດ.ປີນີ້, ອົງການສະຫະປະຊາຊາດ ໄດ້ໃຫ້ການສະໜັບສະໜຸນເຮືອຊ່ວງໜຶ່ງລໍາ ຕິດພັນກັບຂໍ້ຄວາມສຳຄັນທີ່ວ່າ: ທີມບ້ານທ່າພະ, ເມືອງຫາດຊາຍຟອງ, ນະຄອນຫຼວງວຽງຈັນ, ຮ່ວມສົ່ງເສີມການຮັບມືກັບການປ່ຽນແປງຂອງສະພາບດິນຟ້າອາກາດ ໂດຍຮຽກຮ້ອງໃຫ້ພວກເຮົາຢຸດຕິການໃຊ້ຖົງຢາງ, ຈອກຢາງ ແລະ ກະຕຸກຢາງທີ່ໃຊ້ໄດ້ພຽງຄັ້ງດຽວ ເພື່ອຮັກສາຄວາມສະອາດຂອງແມ່ນໍ້າຂອງທີ່ສວຍງາມ. ຂໍເຊີນທ່ານມາທີ່ທ່າວັດຈັນ, ນະຄອນຫຼວງວຽງຈັນມື້ອື່ນ ເພື່ອໃຫ້ກຳລັງໃຈທີມບ້ານທ່າພະ ແລະ ສະໜັບສະໜຸນໃຫ້ແມ່ນໍ້າຂອງກາຍເປັນແມ່ນໍ້າທີ່ປອດພລາສຕິກ! ແລ້ວພົບກັນເດີ້!The recent floods around the country have made it clear: Water is both a life resource and a threatening factor. Climate change exacerbates extreme weather events, and we all have our own stake in climate action. This year, the United Nations is supporting a boat racing team with a special message: The Thapha village team, in Vientiane province’s Hadxayfong district takes a leap towards climate action, in urging us all to stop using single-use plastic bags, cups and bottles, to keep the beautiful Mekong river clean. Come to the river bank in Vientiane tomorrow to root for the Thapha team and a river free of plastic! See you there!#MyChoiceOurFuture#BeatPlasticPollution#UNDay2018UN Environment Asia Pacific UNDP in Asia and the Pacific UNFCCC Global Environment Facility European Union in Laos U.S. Embassy Vientiane Ambassade de France au Laos / ສະຖານທູດຝຣັ່ງ ປະຈຳ ສປປ ລາວ UNV Regional Office: Asia & the Pacific UN Volunteers Programme in Lao PDR @Unicef Laos @World Bank Laos – ທະນາຄານໂລກ JICA Laos -ອົງການຮ່ວມມືສາກົນຢີ່ປຸ່ນ- KOICA 라오스 사무소 KOICA Office in Lao PDR YOUTH Development Center, Vientiane Capital STELLA – ສະເຕ່ວລ້າ Lao Youth Radio FM 90.0 Mhz Lao Youth Union GIZ Laos IUCN IUCN Water Programme Break Free From Plastic Greenpeace Southeast Asia Global Water Forum World Water Council – Conseil Mondial de l'Eau WWF-Laos Vientiane Times ໂທລະໂຄ່ງ TholaKhong Mahason Magazine Laos Briefly

Posted by United Nations in Lao PDR on ວັນອັງຄານ ທີ 23 ຕຸລາ 2018

The UN in Lao PDR on Facebook writes:

 

The recent floods around the country have made it clear; Water is both a life resource and a threatening factor.

Climate change exacerbates extreme weather events, and we all have our own stake in climate action. 
This year, the United Nations is supporting a boat racing team.

The Thapha village team, in Vientiane province’s Hadxayfong district, takes a leap towards climate action, in urging us all to stop using single-use plastic bags, cups and bottles, to keep the beautiful Mekong river clean.

Come to the river bank in Vientiane tomorrow to root for the Thapha team and a river free of plastic! See you there!”

#MyChoiceOurFuture #BeatPlasticPollution #UNDay2018