Challenges for environmentally sustainable development of natural resources in the Nam Ou karst, northern Laos

Kevin Kiernan



A very low level of social and economic development in the Nam Ou karst is in part the result of its remoteness and rugged terrain. The karst poses both opportunities and challenges for environmentally sustainable land use beneficial to the small communities scattered through the area. Negative legacies of past human activity include soil erosion and a reduction in primary forest cover due to a long history of swidden agriculture, and environmental damage generated during wartime. A variety of natural resource development projects are now planned or under way, but progress towards true sustainability is impeded by the very limited resources available to address environmental concerns, which poses particular hazard for karst conservation and management.

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