The master plan, adopted during the 5th Ordinary Session of the National Assembly’s 8th Legislature, highlighted the need to increase forest cover to 70 percent of the nation’s entire terrain, with the remaining 30 percent being designated for development activities.
A total of 4.7 million hectares was designated as protected areas, accounting for 20 percent of the total forest area.
Another 8.2 million hectares was allotted for protecting forestry areas, representing 35 percent of the entire forest area, and only 0.5 million hectares will be used for planting industrial trees.
The 30 percent set aside for development land plots includes 4.5 million hectares designated for agriculture production, representing 19 percent of the total area for development.
The area set aside for rice fields is 2 million hectares, while another 1 million hectares was allocated for growing short duration crops.
One of the most significant features of the master plan is that only 0.37 million hectares was allotted for construction purposes.
However, the National Assembly instructed the government to carry out a land survey and allocation, and said the data from this survey can be used as a reference for framing a strategic plan and an action plan for land use in future.
Funding and equipment are essential for the land survey and allocation and for maintaining land records and issuing land titles.
One of main challenges for Laos is the lack of sufficient data regarding different types of land and their ownership.
A number of land disputes reported in Laos over the past decade were due to lack of proper land survey and allocation.
Members of parliament noted that in some cases, land concessions exceeded the scope permitted by relevant laws and regulations. Worse, the concessions sometimes encroached on conserved forests and woodland allocated for use by villagers, resulting in disputes.
The government was asked to scrutinise forest areas to address issues related to the encroachment of State land, particularly forestry areas. Strong measures must be imposed against those occupying and contravening the country’s laws.
Critics say if land survey and allocation are completed and clear data about land plots is generated, sufficient taxes and fees can be collected from land plots. The clear data will also make it easier for the government to move to e-payments when collecting land tax and fees.
The National Assembly called on the government to frame plans for preserving forests and biodiversity sites, which can also be developed as tourist sites and places for educating the younger generation.