Improving Land Use Planning in the Greater Mekong Subregion

Land use is constantly changing in the GMS. Yet government planners are often poorly informed on land use processes, which risks decisions being made that may lead to social and environmental costs that outweigh the intended benefits. For example, a forest cleared for timber or commercial plantations might, due to poor land use planning, affect water and soil quality and negatively impact nearby agriculture.

The CEP has been promoting, developing, and applying tools to help improve land use planning capacity since 2006. A particularly successful intervention to achieve this has been spatial multicriteria assessment, a decision- support tool that allows planning options to be compared and assessed using economic, environmental, and social criteria and scores.

The information can be mapped to assist decision makers to prioritize investments by location, determine optimal land allocation, and plan mitigation measures to reduce risks. The CEP has trained hundreds of practitioners in the GMS on how to use this tool in planning processes.

In 2012, the CEP conducted spatial multicriteria assessment of the GMS Program’s Regional Investment Framework, 2013–2022, which at the time had an estimated $50-billion project pipeline. The assessment gave ADB and government decision makers important insights into the geographic suitability of these investments in terms of environmental risks and economic opportunities. 

In 2014, the CEP partnered with the Free University of Amsterdam to enhance the CLUMondo land use change modeling software. The revised tool was easier to use and had greater functionality, including a new ecosystem services demand module.

CLUMondo produces maps showing future land use based on land demand and the ecosystem service requirements of sectors. The risks and benefits of land use scenarios can be shown visually and be used to assess against sustainability criteria.

The tool’s application is not only useful for area-based planning processes but also as a risk assessment tool for investment sectors that heavily depend on forest ecosystem services (e.g., hydropower, tourism). This includes SEAs and cumulative impact assessments for plans for agriculture, energy, and transport, among other sectors.

The CEP formed a land use change modeling network for the GMS in 2015. The network brings together government planners and academics from the six countries to raise awareness on land use planning and build national expertise to apply CLUMondo.

In 2015, the CEP used CLUMondo to support Viet Nam’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment to conduct an SEA on the 5-year revision of the National Land Use Plan. This generated insights into the risks and opportunities of adjustments to the plan’s 2020 land use scenario.

With increasing competition for diminishing land resources and emerging threats such as climate change, the CEP’s land use planning support is of increasing importance to the sustainability efforts in the GMS.

Publish Date: 31st March 2018

See more content: Strategic Planning GMS

See also

Consultation Workshop on GMS Climate Change and Environment Sustainability Program (CCESP)

1 to 2 April 2019

Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) Climate Change and Environment Sustainability Program (CCESP): The proposed knowledge and support technical assistance (TA) on CCESP will build on the key achievements of two phases of the Core Environment Program and support the implementation of the GMS Core Environment Program Strategic Framework and Action Plan 2018-2022, which was endorsed at the Fifth GMS Environment Ministers’ Meeting held in 2018. The CCESP will focus on creating enabling conditions to leverage additional investment in priority areas such as (i) green technologies and sustainable infrastructure; (ii) natural resources and ecosystem services; and (iii) green growth, climate resilience and disaster risk management.

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GMS Working Group on Environment 24th Annual Meeting

1st April 2019

The 24th Annual Meeting of the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) Working Group (WG) on Environment reviewed the achievements of the GMS Core Environment Program Phase II and discussed the way forward. WGE AM-24 was hosted by the People’s Republic of China’s Ministry of Ecology and Environment (MEE) with support from ADB through the GMS Environment Operations Center.


The WGE AM-24 was followed by thematic discussions that covered the proposed new programs entitled: "GMS Climate Change and Environmental Sustainability Program (CCESP)" and "GMS Sustainable Agriculture and Food Security Program (SAFSP)" which are aligned with three out of seven operational priorities of Strategy 2030 approved by the Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) Board in 2018.


The CCESP will focus on ADB Strategy 2030’s operational priority: tackling climate change, building climate and disaster resilience, and enhancing environmental sustainability, while SAFSP will focus on ADB Strategy 2030’s operational priority: promoting rural development and food security. Both programs will support ADB Strategy 2030’s operational priority: fostering regional cooperation and integration.


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