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Lao People's Democratic Republic
Geography, climate and population
The Lao People’s Democratic Republic is a landlocked country in the mainland Southeast Asia with a total area of 236 800 km2. The country is bordered by China to the north, Viet Nam to the east, Cambodia to the south, Thailand to the west and Myanmar to the northwest. The country stretches more than 1 700 km along a north-south axis. Some 80 percent of the country’s area is composed of hills and mountains. The highest point is the Phu Bia at 2 820 m above sea level. Administratively, the country is divided into 16 provinces (khoueng) which are: Attapu, Bokeo, Bolikhamxai, Champasak, Houaphan, Khammouan, Louangnamtha, Louangphrabang, Oudomxai, Phongsali, Salavan, Savannakhet, Vientiane (Viangchan) province, Xaignabouli, Xekong and Xiangkhoang and one capital city (nakhon luang) which is Vientiane (Viangchan).
The cultivable area is an estimated 2 million ha, composed of narrow valleys and the flood-prone plain of the Mekong river and its tributaries. In 2009 the total cultivated area accounted for 1 468 000 ha, around 6 percent of the total area of the country. Arable land was an estimated 1 360 000 ha and the area under permanent crops was 108 000 ha (Table 1).
The climate is typically tropical with a rainy season from mid-April to mid-October dominated by the humid southwest monsoon. The average annual rainfall is 1 834 mm but ranges from 1 300 mm in the northern valleys to over 3 700 mm at high elevations in the south. About 75 percent of the rainfall occurs during the rainy season. The water level in the Mekong river may fluctuate by up to 20 m between wet and dry seasons.
In 2009, the total population was an estimated 6.1 million inhabitants of whom around 68 percent lived in rural areas (Table 1). During the period 1999-2009 the average annual growth rate was 1.6 percent. The average population density is 26 inhabitants/km2, which is amongst the lowest in the region. The lowest population density is in the southern provinces of Attapu and Xekong near the Vietnamese border and the highest in Savannakhet or Champasack provinces.
In 2008, access to improved drinking water sources reached 57 percent (72 and 51 percent for urban and rural population respectively) and 53 percent had sanitation coverage (86 and 38 percent for urban and rural population respectively).