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Air pollutant emissions and sources in Lao People’s Democratic Republic: a provincial scale analysis for years 2013-2019

The authors of this paper quantified emissions of nine air pollutants alongside two greenhouse gases in Lao People’s Democratic Republic (PDR) to build the country’s first national and provincial inventory of air pollutant emissions and sources.

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O'Neill, C., Slater, J., Sychareun, V., Vongxay, V., Soulideth, B., Malley, C. S., Archer, C., & Kuylenstierna, J. C. I. (2024). Air pollutant emissions and sources in Lao People's Democratic Republic: a provincial scale analysis for years 2013-2019. Environmental Research Communications 6 (3).

Two-storey buildings on one side of a two-lane road. Slightly blurred traffic rushes by away from the camera: a small white car and a blue tuk tuk.

A street in Vientiane, capital of Lao PDR. Transport is a major source of air pollutant and greenhouse gas emissions in the country's urban provinces.

Photo: kazhiya / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Exposure to outdoor air pollution causes ~10 000 premature deaths each year in Lao PDR. Annually, concentrations of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) in the country are four times higher than the World Health Organization’s recommended guidelines. Due to the extensive use of biomass cooking fuels in the country indoor air quality is also a source of concern, causing ~6000 premature deaths a year. The creation of Lao PDR’s first national and provincial air pollutant emissions inventory provides an evidence base for policymakers to develop further actions to improve air quality, as well as supporting the country’s climate change commitments.

To build the inventory, the researchers followed international guidelines set out by the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC). In doing so, they quantified emissions of air pollutants and gases including, but not limited to, fine particulate matter (PM2.5), black carbon, nitrogen oxides (NOx), ammonia (NH3), carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4).

The researchers found that, in urban provinces, industry, transport and electricity generation are key sectors for emissions. However, in more rural provinces, residential and agricultural emissions are a more significant issue. Forest fires and agricultural burning also generate a high volume of the country’s particulate air pollution.

The authors noted that Lao PDR’s economic development is projected to continue at a relatively rapid rate. This is likely to be accompanied by an increase in energy demands, waste generation and agricultural production, all of which would lead to higher emissions if trends continue. Developing capacity to tackle this pressing health and climate challenge will be vital: this emissions inventory is a crucial step towards creating mitigation strategies and sustainable economic growth for the country.

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Open access

SEI authors

Connie O’Neill

Research Associate

SEI York

Chris Malley

Senior Research Fellow

SEI York

Diane Archer

Senior Research Fellow

SEI Asia

Johan C.I. Kuylenstierna

Reader / Research Leader

SEI York

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