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: 30th March 2018

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