Luang Prabang — Welcomed by the gentle breeze and the tropical sun, Professor Takada arrived safely in Luang Prabang on March 28th to coordinate with the Luang Prabang World Heritage Office (DPL) with regard to Yamaguchi-Takada laboratory’s research direction for 2019 and onward. He joined lab members Jerome Silla (D1) and Masaaki Ishihara (M2) who arrived in Luang Prabang a few weeks prior. A workshop, where DPL staff members and the lab’s Lao research group convened together to discuss research updates, led by Professor Takada culminated his visit.
Prior to Professor Takada’s arrival, Itsuki Uemura (M2) organized a workshop on March 14th and reported the final result of his research on the changes of landscape in Luang Prabang using GIS. His findings illustrated the significant changes in the landscape and the reasons of these changes from the perspective of the local residents and DPL. Mr. Saveuy, director of DPL, stated that the changes in the landscape and the reasons behind these changes would contribute to the sustainable development of Luang Prabang World Heritage Site. Uemura, who will graduate Tokyo Tech by the end of the month, also spent his last field work for knowledge transfer to the remaining members of Lao research team.
Professor Takada’s first visit in Luang Prabang in 2019 was mainly intended to coordinate and set the direction of each lab member’s individual research according to DPL’s needs and approval. Jerome Silla’s (D1) first fieldwork in Luang Prabang was aimed primarily to inquire, investigate and evaluate Luang Prabang’s historical hazards and disaster events. Masaaki Ishihara (M2) focused on evaluating the conditions of ponds and wetlands which is essential in the updating of Luang Prabang’s safeguarding plan (PSMV). Apart from this, Professor Takada led the team in providing support for DPL’s database management and web hosting service.
Professor Takada, Jerome Silla and Masaaki Ishihara’s workshop on March 29th was attended by Mr. Khampet, head of DPL’s administration office and Mr. Sisomphone, head of DPL’s ICT team along with other DPL staff, Finance College intern students and Thai intern students.
Jerome Silla’s workshop consisted of three points: 1) a presentation of disasters in World Heritage sites in different parts the world that were eventually listed as World Heritage in Danger; 2) an introduction of the Lao government’s National Disaster Risk Reduction Plan and its relationship with the Sendai Framework on Disaster Risk Reduction; 3) a presentation of the four priorities of the Sendai Framework, wherein the ‘Priority 1: Understanding Disaster Risk’ was tackled more in details; and 4) the importance of disaster risk elements (hazard, vulnerability, and exposure) and the interconnection among them were given emphasis. The audience’s eagerness towards the new research plan was expressed through their inquiries regarding the research’s future developments. One question regarding soil erosion issues in Mount Phousi was raised. As soil erosions can be caused by natural or man-made events, an examination of the soil composition and soil layer must be examined first before conclusions can be made.
Masaaki Ishihara presented the translated data collection sheet for ponds and wetlands from Lao to English. This translated version will be helpful for Ishihara in organizing the information collected during the survey, to which some of the data will be inputted in GIS. His task to modify DPL’s heritage photo database was also mentioned in his presentation.
Professor Takada presented about the reconstruction of DPL’s database system. He discussed the shift to use PHP in 2018 for the heritage database’s user interface development. He also addressed the sustainability and skill transfer issues in the current Tokyo Tech-DPL collaboration. He identified three possible reasons that may contribute to the inefficient skill transfer between the two teams: 1) lack of hands-on training for DPL staff; 2) lack of time for concentration in coding for both DPL and Tokyo Tech; and 3) mobility of personnel. Human resource mobility on both parties, such as DPL ICT members moving to other sections or resigning, and Tokyo Tech students’ limited study period, eventually impose challenges in transferring project knowledge. In order to address the issue on long-term sustainability of ICT projects, Professor Takada acknowledged that the maintenance of information system is a mission of ICT team and not of Tokyo Tech. Regardless, Tokyo Tech will provide support in helping DPL to achieve their capability to maintain their own database and information management system.
At the end, the workshop identified the underlying needs in order to promote sustainability of research projects in Luang Prabang and thus, was a success.