Ayyoob Sharifi, Global Carbon Project, Tsukuba, Japan

Yoshihio Chiba & Kohei Okamoto, Nagoya University, Nagoya, japan

Presentation Title: Urbanization and landscape change in a newly developing country: The case of Vientiane, Laos




While many countries around the world are experiencing declining rates of urbanization within the past three decades, Laos has witnessed a significant increase in its urban population. This started in 1986 when the country began its transition to a market economy. Urbanization in the neighboring countries has been examined extensively in the literature. However, only very few researchers have addressed this issue in the Laotian context. To fill this lacuna in research, the urbanization pattern in Vientiane, the capital of Laos was surveyed. This study focused on both physical and non-physical aspects of Vientiane’s urbanization.

Key Lessons Learned

  • Urban growth in Vientiane has evolved into a sprawl pattern resulting in a loss of many invaluable natural resources.
  • Fragmented governance exists and there is a lack of integrated land management.
  • Master planning has failed to control and regulate urban growth in Vientiane.
  • Lack of legal basis, rigidity of zoning, exclusion of local authorities and non-participatory processes prevail.

Policy/Practice Implications of Research

  • This study may help decision-makers make more informed choices for urban development.
  • Results indicate that there is an urgent need for improvements in regulatory and management aspects.
  • The master plan should be revised and updated to provide a more realistic account of the existing situation.

Knowledge Gaps and Needs

There is a need to reorient master planning toward strategic spatial planning with the following components:

  • A selective approach that acknowledges limitations, e.g., budgetary limitations, to solve select issues;
  • Attention to non-physical aspects of planning, i.e., less rigid than typical master planning;
  • An integrated network of vertical and horizontal relationships to address governance fragmentation;
  • Revisions and updates are necessary to address the dynamism of cities as socio-ecological systems;
  • Involvement of multiple stakeholders; and,
  • Strong linkages to implementation and mechanisms for management.