Comparative Analysis to Underline Hin Nam No’s Outstanding Universal Value

To support the Lao government in its endeavours to place Hin Nam No National Protected Area (Hin Nam No NPA) under UNESCO World Heritage protection, the GIZ-HinNamNo component of the German Development Cooperation programme Protection and Sustainable Use of Forest Ecosystems and Biodiversity (ProFEB) organized a 8-day technical field mission. The mission, led by Prof. em. Paul Williams, international expert on geomorphology and hydrology with the World Conservation Union (IUCN), set out on April 25 to assess the area’s geologic and geomorphologic features in relation to other tropical karst (limestone) regions. This evaluation is part of the technical work on the nomination process of Hin Nam No as part of a transboundary UNESCO World Heritage site with Phong Nga Ke Bang National Park (PNKB NP) in Vietnam.

The technical work required for the nomination of Hin Nam No NPA as an extension to PNKB NP was officially kicked off in March 2018 with a first meeting of the Hin Nam No NPA UNESCO nomination Technical Taskforce. Its key challenge is to demonstrate the area’s contribution to the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the soon-to-be transboundary World Heritage site. The exploratory mission, conducted from April 25th to 30th, highlights Hin Nam No’s diverse landscape against the backdrop of other karst formations in the region and worldwide.

Mr. Oday Soudaphone, Khammouane’s Provincial Governor, joined the mission team’s exploration of Xe Bang Fai cave, one of the largest active river cave passages in the world. During his visit, he stressed the importance of Hin Nam No’s anticipated UNESCO nomination for Laos and Khammouane in particular: “Becoming a Natural World Heritage Site will ensure the conservation and protection of the area and its outstanding universal value. Tourism-wise, the remarkable features of Hin Nam No’s karst formations and its biological diversity will attract both local and international tourists, which will in turn generate income for local communities”.

German Ambassador Jens Lütkenherm, who accompanied the technical mission on a helicopter flight over the karst landscape, highlighted Germany’s backing regarding the UNESCO nomination process: “We fully support the Lao government in its effort to attain UNESCO World Heritage status for Hin Nam No in order to protect its biodiversity and to strengthen Laos’ international profile as an eco-tourism destination. The status as a UNESCO World Heritage site would undoubtedly promote effective conservation of the region’s spectacular flora and fauna, and the geoheritage of Laos”. He added that “Laos as a member of the global community will contribute outstanding universal value for all citizens around the globe if Hin Nam No gains UNESCO World Heritage protection”.

Hin Nam No NPA, as part of a transboundary UNESCO World Heritage site with the Vietnamese Phong Nga Ke Bang National Park, would receive recognition by the international conservation community under the World Heritage convention. However, there is still a lot of work needed to prepare for the submission of the nomination to UNESCO, particularly with respect to increasing knowledge about Hin Nam No and its values through baseline research. As Prof. em. Paul Williams has concluded his mission, Dr. Leonid Averyanov, a well-known botanist and orchid specialist, started his 2-week vegetation survey from May 2 to May 17 in Hin Nam No.