Lao PDR from space    

This map displays a naturally coloured satellite image of the Lao PDR and the surrounding area. This NaturalVue 2000 image is based on an ortho-rectified, mosaicked and colour balanced Landsat-7. NaturalVue 2000 was derived from the GeoCover Ortho 2000 program for the American National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and is a trademarked product from the Earth Satellite Corporation.

This image shows some very basic categories of land cover types. Dense, mainly evergreen, closed canopy forest shows as dark green; the lighter the green the lower is the biomass density; yellowish colours show for the most part  agricultural areas (or in some areas show deciduous forests); brownish-orange colours indicate bare soil or rock (e.g. limestone formations in central Lao PDR, but also burnt rice fields in north-western Thailand), a bluish colour indicates irrigation areas (e.g. the Korat plateau or around Hanoi) and of course dark blue indicates open water.

The satellite image strongly highlights how unchecked economic and population growth over the last three decades have left their scars on the landscapes of the Lower Mekong Region. Widespread deforestation and rapid land cover changes have depleted large areas of their original forests in the more developed countries of Thailand and Vietnam, and the province of Yunnan in China. However, the two less developed countries in the centre of the region, Cambodia and the Lao PDR, are still comparably well endowed with forest resources and woody biomass. This is clearly visible along the Thai borders with both the Lao PDR and Cambodia. While large parts of the Korat Plateau in Thailand are an intensively yellowish–bluish colour, areas just across the border in the Lao PDR and Cambodia still show significant amounts of woody biomass. The distinct development disparities between Cambodia and the Lao PDR in the centre of the region and the surrounding countries of Thailand, Vietnam and China have resulted in high dependencies of the poorer nations on their richer neighbours. However to a certain extent the reverse is true in terms of the remaining land resources. The ongoing economic opening-up of Cambodia and the Lao PDR, coupled with the enormous economic growth in the entire region, puts the natural resources in the centre of the region under ever-increasing pressure.

In this very specific and dynamic regional setting, up-to-date and spatially explicit national information on natural resources and socio-economic characteristics and development are more important than ever before in order to support policies geared towards sustainable development in the Lao PDR and the entire region. A variety of environmental information can nowadays be quite easily accessed and processed as a result of the abundance of earth observation data available. The current atlas, in processing, analysing and visualising the most recent national socio-economic data, hopes to contribute to the available knowledge on current socio-economic characteristics, thereby supporting the identification of the related development challenges and opportunities for the Lao PDR in a regional context.


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