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Elaborate Plans for Plain of Jars Development Revealed, with Full Adherence to World Heritage Guidelines

Source: Vientiane Times

UNESCO’s world heritage guidelines will be fully observed when tourist attractions and facilities are built in areas surrounding Xieng Khuang’s Plain of Jars world heritage site, a senior provincial official has promised.

Director of the Xieng Khuang Provincial Planning and Investment Department, Khamphoui Nola, gave the assurance after the province recently authorized a local company to carry out a feasibility study on the development of tourism attractions outside the world heritage zone, known as Zone 1.

He made the comment in response to a post on social media claiming that provincial authorities had granted a concession to a foreign company to build tourist facilities inside the world heritage site, which triggered public concern about the status of the site.

If the study results are accepted and the project gets the go-ahead, the development will take place in zones 2, 3, and 4, not zone 1, the director said.

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UNESCO has divided the Plain of Jars into four zones for the purposes of conservation. Zones outside the world heritage site are to be developed with strict observance to the rules of UNESCO, he said when speaking on the Xieng Khuang provincial television channel.

The first zone, Zone 1, is the location of the world heritage area which must be preserved in its original state, with no construction permitted.

The second zone is an area adjacent to the first zone. In this area, development is permitted but must not affect the environment there. In the third zone, the construction of facilities is allowed to support the development of tourism and transportation, while in the fourth zone, houses can be built, as well as other buildings to accommodate tourists, Mr Khamphoui said.

He said that since the Plain of Jars was recognised by UNESCO as Laos’ third world heritage site in 2019, provincial authorities have strictly followed the rules issued by UNESCO and will continue to do so.

If the development project is realized, the second and third zones of the Plain of Jars, located in the Paek district in the northern province, will be transformed into a tourist destination.

Amenities such as landscaped gardens, ethnic-style model houses, and restaurants will be built in these zones to add to the enjoyment of visitors, according to the
Xieng Khuang Provincial Information, Culture and Tourism Department.

After signing a Memorandum of Understanding, CNP Import-Export Trading Co., Ltd. will conduct a feasibility study on the proposed developments together with Xieng Khuang provincial authorities. The study is expected to be completed within 12 months.

The Plain of Jars comprises about 80 distinct sites, but only 11 are included in the listed area due to their high concentration of stone jars.

Among these, three large sites in the Paek district are particularly popular with visitors. The first site, located 15km southwest of the provincial capital Phonsavanh, contains about 300 jars.

photo credit: Jakub Halun