6 Ensure environmental sustainability

Where we are

Photo: UNDP Lao PDR/Philippe Pernet

The Lao PDR faces a challenge in balancing economic activity without sustaining further environmental damage. Forest cover in the country has declined from 49.10% in 1982 to 40.34% in 2010. This is down from some 70% several decades prior. When combined with further industrial activity, the decline in forest cover transformed the Lao PDR from a net sequester of CO2 in 1990 to a net emitter in 2000.

The country is making progress, however, and the rate of deforestation has slowed. The Government has committed to bringing all 51 production forest areas under sustainable forest management plans that apply Forest Steward Council standards.

The Lao PDR has steadily increased access to safe drinking water and improved sanitation facilities. In 2011, 70% of the country had access to clean drinking water and urban coverage of sanitation facilities has reached 88%, though coverage is much lower in rural areas. Even if the Lao PDR does reach its target of 60% of the population using an improved sanitation facility by 2015, that still leaves a large segment of the population practicing open defecation.

Meeting the targets

The Government has enacted a wide array of legislation, regulations and action plans for environmental conservation and protection, including in other sectors such as health. The capacity of various institutions to implement and enforce these environmental initiatives, however, needs strengthening. In addition, awareness needs to be increased among the public of the correlation of environmental protection, public health and poverty. Reaching the safe water and sanitation targets will require continued international support and service delivery models that feature increased community participation. 

Targets for MDG7
  1. Integrate the principles of sustainable development into country policies and programmes; reverse loss of environmental resources
  2. Reduce biodiversity loss, achieving, by 2010, a significant reduction in the rate of loss
    • Proportion of land area covered by forest and proportion of species threatened with extinction
    • CO2 emissions, total, per capita and per $1 GDP (PPP)
    • Consumption of ozone-depleting substances
    • Proportion of fish stocks within safe biological limits
    • Proportion of total water resources used
    • Proportion of terrestrial and marine areas protected
  3. Reduce by half the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation
    • Proportion of population using an improved drinking water source
    • Proportion of population using an improved sanitation facility
  4. Achieve significant improvement in lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers, by 2020
    • Proportion of urban population living in slums