located IN southeast Asia, and formerly part of the French Indochina, Laos has a land area of 91,429 sq. mi. (236,800 sq. km.), a population of 5,859,000 (2006 est.), and a population density of 66 people per sq. mi. (25 people per sq. km.). With only 3 percent of the country arable, and another 3 percent used for meadows and pasture, 55 percent of the country remains forested, although this is declining slowly with a large timber industry in parts of Laos.

Regarding the electricity production in Laos, 98 percent comes from hydropower, with the remaining 2 percent from fossil fuels. Laos is located on the Mekong River, and plans were first discussed in 1962, and drawn up in 1969, to build the Nam Ngum Dam to provide for the power needs of Vientiane, the country's capital. Although it already exports electricity generated from hydropower, the Laotian and Thai governments plan to build the controversial Pa Mong Dam. As a result of this heavy use of hydropower, Laos maintains one of the lowest per capita rates of carbon dioxide emission in the world, at 0.1 metric tons in 1990, rising to 0.22 metric tons by 2003.

The main effect of global warming and climate change on Laos is expected to be increased flooding of low-lying parts of the country, with a possible increase in the prevalence of insect-borne diseases such as malaria and dengue fever. Higher tempera tures might also result in difficulty growing some crops in the country, resulting in lower yields. The government of the Lao Democratic People's Republic took part in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change signed in Rio de Janeiro in May 1992, and they accepted the Kyoto Protocol to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change on February 6, 2003, which took effect on February 16, 2005.

SEE ALSO: Disease; Floods; Thailand.

BIBLIOGRAPHY. Agricultural Development in the Mekong Basin: Goals, Priorities and Strategies (Resources for the Future, 1971); World Resources Institute, "Laos—Climate and Atmosphere," (cited October 2007); Ben Winston, "Forgotten Bombs of the Secret War," Geographical (v.77/10, 2005).

Justin Corfield Geelong Grammar School, Australia

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