Vientiane Times, August 29, 2013
Prime Minister Thongsing Thammavong has called for Xayaboury provincial authorities to focus on reforestation, which is considered essential to improving the livelihoods of local people.
The prime minister met with local authorities while visiting the province recently to spur socio-economic development as well as giving advice on the ‘Three Builds’ directive.
He noted that Xayaboury’s forests have been severely degraded by illegal logging and slash and burn cultivation, so it is now time to pursue a programme of reforestation.
Director of the Xayaboury provincial Department of Information, Culture and Tourism, Mr Bounneo Alilak, told Vientiane Times yesterday the prime minister’s advice was in line with the province’s strategy to restore forests as a way to counter global warming.
“We will plant trees along the main roads from Xayaboury provincial capital to various districts from now until 2020,” he said.
Forests are very important for Laos because the country is developing hydropower to boost economic growth and generate income for local communities. Unless forests can be sustained, hydropower projects will be affected.
The prime minister also advised local authorities to help farmers boost their crop yields so they can supply produce to the employees of large-scale development projects such as the Xayaboury dam and the Hongsa lignite power plant.
These two projects, which are currently under construction, are buying most of their food and other products from neighbouring countries because Laos cannot supply them. If local people can produce the food needed to supply these operations, Laos will stand to benefit from similar projects in the future.
In addition, Mr Thongsing called for local authorities to closely monitor investment projects on the books. He noted that some developers obtain a concession for a project with the sole aim of selling it on to another investor at a later date, which leads to lengthy delays.
Mr Thongsing also warned that the inflow of foreign investment and visitors could have some impacts on the cultural fabric of the province. To prevent this, the authorities need to ensure that local people maintain their fine traditions despite the changes going on around them.
He praised the authorities for their efforts to advance socio-economic development through the construction of new roads, buildings and other facilities.
When a new road linking Xayaboury and Luang Prabang provinces is completed, it will ease the transport of goods and people in the northern region, in addition to providing easier access between Laos and its neighbours.
Mr Thongsing also inspected the site of the planned Mekong River bridge linking Paklai district with Sanakham district in Vientiane province. Construction is about to begin, aiming to facilitate travel and transport between Vientiane, Vientiane province and Xayaboury province.
He also visited villages under the ‘Three Builds’ programme in Paklai district and Xayaboury provincial capital to advise local authorities and villagers on how to ensure the programme succeeds as planned. One of the goals is to consolidate small villages into larger urban centres and establish towns in rural areas.