Policy makers in the Nam Xong area of Vientiane Province are discovering that mooted economic developments in the region may not always have their desired impacts.
This is one of the findings of a project set up to help co-ordinate policies in the area, as revealed at a workshop held in Vang Vieng from November 17-18.
Mining investments, for example, may not help alleviate poverty or stimulate economic growth in the area, while tourism could cause significant environmental problems.
The project, “Implementing Cross-sectoral Negotiations to Nam Xong Water Resources, Livelihoods, Ecosystem Services and Agricultural Intensification”, is part of efforts being made by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems (WLE) for the Greater Mekong. It has been bringing together government decision makers from various sectors and levels since early 2015 to discuss possible development paths in the Nam Xong watershed and how they will affect the futures of local people.
Some of the results surprised both participants, from district and provincial administrations and various ministries, and the project organisers. At the beginning of the process, the participants were asked to list the potential engines of economic growth for the area and what effects investments in those fields would have. They were then asked to imagine how they would like the life of a young girl living in the area to evolve over the next 25 years.
Following this, project researchers from the National Economic Research Institute and the Mekong Region Futures Institute (MERFI) gathered data from over 1,000 households in the area on how they thought various development paths would affect their lives. A simulation model was then produced to estimate the effects of various development scenarios in the Nam Xong region.
One example of the modelling results determined that although mining is thought to bring prosperity, mines may not contribute much to the local economy and could even generate less local income than current land and resources do. This potential outcome was acknowledged by the participants, who proposed to place greater controls on the approval and monitoring of mining ventures.
Project data also showed that current tourism levels in Vang Vieng are having a negative effect on oxygen levels in the river due to untreated water, sewage and other waste from hotels and resorts.
Given these and other findings, the participants resolved to develop actions that could regulate developments in mining, tourism and agriculture and so protect the future of the young girl whose life they had envisioned at the project start. A final meeting will be convened in December to discuss these actions and the overall findings of the project. It will be led by MERFI in partnership with the Ministry of Planning and Investment and the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment.
Source: Lao News Agency