Lao P.D.R.

Research Activities in Luang Prabang, Lao P.D.R.

The followings are the illustration of our research activities.


GIS Analysis of Landscape Changes in 16 Core Villages (2017-present)
  1. Background/ Research objectives

The town of Luang Prabang in Lao P.D.R. was inscribed on the World Heritage List as World Cultural Heritage in 1995. After one decade, the Monitoring Mission report identified that the pressure from development had posed a deterioration of the landscape of Luang Prabang due to increased tourism. Therefore, it recommended developing up-to-date map to analyze the changes chronologically. In 2009, DPL introduced Geographic Information System (GIS) software and conducted the chronological analysis of the six core villages and identified both positive charges and emerging issues. However, since 2010 there has been no study to analyze landscape changes. In addition, at present, DPL is working for updating PSMV. Thus, visualization and analysis of landscape changes especially in core area is an urgent need.

Given this background, three important research objectives were formulated: 1) to apply GIS to visualize the landscape of the World Heritage Site; 2) to conduct the chronological analysis on the landscape changes; and 3) to identify reasons behind the landscape changes over two decades.

  1. Methodology/ Data analysis

The research design of this study consists of five major steps: 1) identification of a significant site; 2) data collection; 3) data input; 4) visualization of the landscape with GIS; and 5) statistical analysis of the landscape. First, the significant site was identified as the Safeguarded Zone (ZPP-Ua) including 16 villages, the core of the heritage site. Base maps dated 1999, 2010 and 2017 which were developed through the implementation of GIS was utilized. Second, latest data was collected on 1500 built environment between 2016 and 2018. Third, the collected data was reviewed to confirm the accuracy of the data, based on manuals regarding characteristics of building attributes and discussion with local experts and professors. Fourth, visualization of the landscape was conducted with six attributes to see the chronological changes: 1) building usage; 2) building architecture; 3) building materials; 4) building roof materials; 5) building story; and 6) building condition. Fifth, statistical analysis was conducted to further describe these changes.

Preliminary findings of the chronological analysis (1999 – 2010 – 2017) are as follows.

  1. Buildings with touristic usage significantly increased, especially along two main reviews and along main roads
  2. Buildings with Lao traditional architecture suddenly increased throughout ZPP-Ua, but no its significant change was found
  3. Buildings with Lao traditional materials gradually decreased throughout ZPP-Ua
  4. Buildings with Lao traditional roof materials significantly increased throughout ZPP-Ua
  5. Two-story buildings increased throughout ZPP-Ua
  6. Buildings in good condition notably increased throughout ZPP-Ua

In addition, Questionnaire survey for 203 local residents was conducted to identify reasons behind the landscape changes. The analysis of the survey result is currently progressing.

Fieldwork Presentation  (Mar., 2018)

Master Interim Poster Presentation (Jan., 2018)



Aerial photo
Application of Drone for Riverbank Landscape Monitoring (2015-2017)
  1. Background/Research objective

The riverbank of Luang Prabang plays a vital role to keep its Outstanding Universal Value as a World Heritage Site. Since the inscription as World Heritage Site, Luang Prabang experienced the hike of tourist visits and rapid development. This has given rise to the decreasing tendency in greenery and increasing tendency in buildings on Mekong riverbank of main heritage zone according to UNESCO Reactive Monitoring Mission report published in 2007. Responding to this situation, in 2015, Riverbank Management Plan was developed to promote landscape preservation along Mekong river. However, the plan identified that the lack of detailed landscape data on Mekong riverbank.

The first field survey was conducted in 2015, The survey revealed that there was an urgent need to understand and analyze the riverbank landscape to supplement the information on Riverbank Management Plan. With this need, the following four research objectives were formulated: 1) to analyze the use of the riverbank monitoring tools identified; 2) to develop riverbank landscape data through visualization of the landscape; 3) to develop an landscape analysis method to monitor the riverbank landscape over time; and 4) to evaluate and analyze the current landscape in riverbank using he analysis method developed.

  1. Methodology and Data Analysis

This study conducted four major activities. First, comparative analysis to identify riverbank landscape monitoring tools was conducted. Thought the comparative analysis, drone was identified as the most appropriate monitoring tool in Luang Prabang. Second, landscape focusing on greenery and built architecture of 1.5 km Mekong riverbank was visualized using the drone. After the draft video with drone, the video data was improved to monitor the landscape in relation to its location with reference to the map using GPS information extracted from flight data simultaneously. Third, a set of evaluation sheets including the preservation criteria extracted from the Riverbank Management Plan was developed as a landscape analysis method.  Fourth, current landscape focusing on greenery and built architecture was analyzed using the video data and evaluation sheets.

  1. Findings

The analysis of green environment of 1.5 km riverbank monitoring identified 14 areas not meeting the preservation criteria. This indicates that these areas require further monitoring. In addition, five out of 14 areas were found with major gaps between current situation and ideal situation suggested in Riverbank Management Plan by all ten evaluators. This analysis revealed that the five areas have strong possibilities in degrading the riverbank landscape of Luang Prabang. Regarding built architectures, analysis of landscape found that 22 architectures out of 32 require further monitoring by all nine evaluators. Local workshop feedback showed that it was difficult for architecture’s owners to keep the balance between meeting the preservation criteria and satisfying the needs of the users. Therefore, this analysis showed owners of the 22 architectures tend to prioritize on the satisfying the needs of the users. The findings of this study serve as baseline data for developing effective local policies in riverbank landscape preservation.

Master Presentation (Mar., 2017)

Master Thesis (Mar., 2017)


GIS Analysis of Ponds and Wetlands (2014-2016)
  1. Background/Research Objectives

One of the Outstanding Universal Values of the Luang Prabang World Heritage Site is ponds and wetland. The ponds and wetlands in the town have important functions such as flood prevention and water retention promoting rich biodiversity. Luang Prabang experienced the hike of tourist visits and rapid development. This resulted in increasing pressure on the heritage property including the ponds and wetlands.

Given this back ground, Tokyo Tech and Department of World Heritage in Luang Prabang (DPL) conducted a baseline survey. Reflecting an urgent need of DPL to promote ponds and wetlands, three specific research objectives were developed: 1) to visualize temporal changes of the ponds and wetlands from 2001 to 2015 using GIS; 2) to identify reasons behind the change of the ponds and wetlands; and 3) to understand people’s attitude toward ponds and wetlands preservation.


This study conducted five major steps based on theoretical frame work. First, visualization of temporal changes in the pilot site. The temporal changes in the pilot site are visualized and analyzed using GIS to provide evident information on the changes and update data of the ponds and wetlands in the pilot site. Second, face-to-face interviews with stakeholders. Face-to-face interviews are conducted with randomly selected individuals belonging to the interest groups with two purposes.1) to explore reasons behind the changing tendency of the pond and wetlands and 2) to identify possible factors affecting the attitude of the people toward ponds and wetlands preservation. Third, Workshop with local experts. A local workshop is organized to have constructive discussion with the experts of DPL. Fourth, identify possible factors are further explored through a 5-likert scale questionnaire survey. Fifth, quantitative analysis on survey responses. The mean value of each item constructed by all 61 reposes is firstly analyzed to find patterns in highly agreed / disagreed items.

  1. Findings

The comparison of land cover types identified that the green space composed of ponds and forests had decreased between 2001 and 2014 while building zone had constantly increased. Qualitative analysis and discussion with local experts obtained through interviews identified five specific reasons behind the change of the ponds and wetlands. The main reasons include intentional reclamation due to the population expansion and natural mud accumulation in the bottom of ponds. Factor analysis identified six attitude factors, namely, cost of ponds and wetlands, feeling toward ponds and wetlands, knowledge on ponds and wetlands, importance of ponds and wetlands, accessibility to ponds and wetlands and usefulness of ponds and wetlands. The mean value analysis found that people are highly concerned about costs of ponds and wetlands while they recognize the value of ponds and wetlands. These findings of this study served as valuable information for developing effective local policies in ponds and wetlands preservation.

Master Presentation (Mar., 2016)

Master Thesis (Mar., 2016)


Yew Siang Poong in launching ceremony of mobile learning
Mobile Learning Application to Raise Awareness of Heritage Preservation

Luang Prabang in Lao PDR faced an urgent need to raise awareness of preservation. This study developed Mobile learning application and tested its impact based on modified Protection Motivation Theory in promoting world heritage site preservation awareness among local residents.

Questionnaire survey was conducted to 220 college and university students in Laung Prabang. As a result, it was found that the following four components affected behavioral expectation to preserve World Heritage Site: 1) perceived severity; 2) response efficacy; 3) perceived resident effectiveness; and 4) perceived benefits of inscription. The findings of this study support world heritage management practitioners in identifying components essential in the desing and dissemination of persuasive public communication to promote World Heritage Site preservation awareness. The application is available for download from Google Playstore.

Doctor Presentation (Feb., 2016)

Doctor Thesis (Feb., 2016)


Construction Authorization Database (2013-2015)
  1. Background/ Research objectives

Local ICT team of DPL and Tokyo tech team conducted the development and operation of database management systems, with Free and Open Source Software (FOSS), reflecting local conditions. One of the databases, the construction authorization database was created in 2007, aiming to support the authorization process of construction permission. However, as the database encountered the problem in its sustainable use, this study intends to explore sustainable solutions for construction authorization database.

Given this background, this research examines sustainable solutions for construction authorization database in the DPL. To consider and apply sustainable solutions to the construction authorization database, this study has following three objectives: 1) to analyze and identify problems of the current database based on literature reviews and local discussion; 2) to develop applicable database reflecting the local context; and 3) to evaluate usability and management of the database.

  1. Methodology/ Data Analysis

This study conducted five major activities. First, the analysis of the current issues and needs of the database were identified through literature reviews and local discussions. The discussion and interview were conducted with the local ICT team and authorization section. Second, the possible solutions were identified with local staff members. Third, the database was improved with selected solution. This process included 1) providing training for database management at the local site; and 2) database improvement. The training was emphasized on the management of database. Forth, the evaluation of the improved database, with the usability test, the case trials and interviews were carried out. Usability test assessed the user interface of the database. Through case trials, the database improvement process was assessed. The participants were asked to fix errors of the database as a task for the case trials. After testing the interview session was conducted with all participants. Fifth, based on the process of evaluation, the research was finalized. Identified problem was discussed with local staff members for further improvement.

  1. Findings

These evaluations found that the easy-to-use user interface drastically shortened time for data input with better search function and Lao language explanation. Further, the users are positive about integrating this construction authorization database into their daily work. ICT team members are willing to manage the construction authorization database as a part of their regular work. At the same time, for the sustainable management of the database, local ICT team requires continuous training and the documentations of the database for the users and managers need to be improved. In order to enhance knowledge and skills of the database transfer, the following points were considered as necessary, developing easy-to-use reference materials, translation of the materials into local language and reintroducing usage of the knowledge management tool. Improved authorization construction database was able to integrate into the daily works of DPL in the long term with continuous training and enhancing knowledge and skills transfer.

Master Presentation (Feb., 2015)

Master Thesis (Feb., 2015)


VR Panorama to Review the Landscape with PSMV (2011-2013)

1, Background/Research Objective

Luang Prabang of Lao P.D.R. was inscribed as World Heritage Site in 1995. Tokyo Tech has been collaborating with the Department of World Heritage Luang Prabang (DPL) in introducing applicable Information and Communication Technology (ICT) tools. ICT had a potential role to contribute to effective management of world heritage site. However, introducing technologies in developing country must be undertaken with particular attention to the sustainability aspect as well as its effectiveness. With the rapid increase in tourists in Luang Prabang, an urgent need was identified to introduce visualization technology to effectively monitor townscape changes as a part of long-term monitoring scheme.

Given this background, this study introduced and evaluated applicable and sustainable townscape visualization technology. It also aimed to establish a townscape monitoring procedure using selected townscape visualization technology.

  1. Methodology/ Analysis

This study conducted the following five activities. First, survey on current townscape monitoring method in DPL was conducted to clarify the monitoring issues. Second, Street-View prototype which is one kind of virtual tour composed by multiple VR panoramas was introduced. This step composes of four activities: 1) selection of pilot site; 2) comparative analysis for technology of VR panorama; 3) training for creation of Street-View; and 4) development of Street-View prototype. Third, the townscape monitoring procedure using Street-View prototype was developed. Forth, to evaluate Street-View prototype as monitoring tool, the case trials and the interviews were conducted.  Fifth, based on the process of Street-View prototype development and evaluation results, townscape monitoring procedure was discussed.

  1. Findings

Four positive findings were identified: 1) user-friendly operation enables users with different experiences and backgrounds to use Street-View; 2) Street-View makes it possible to share townscape information among DPL and contribute to analyze townscape changes; 3) Street-View can be utilized as a communication tool for relevant organizations and the local residents; and 4) Street-View meets the need for townscape monitoring through its major functions. Further, Street-View has advantages in terms of sustainable use and capacity building at DPL. Street-View was able to serve as a sustainable monitoring tool because the technical acquisition of Street-View was easy, and its skills and knowledge could be acquired through its daily use at work.

Master Presentation (Feb., 2013)

Master Thesis (Feb., 2013)


Knowledge Management System (2010-2012)
  1. Background/ Research objectives

ICT application for heritage management project had been conducted in Luang Prabang, Lao P.D.R. under the collaboration between Tokyo Tech and Lao local government. Sustainable maintenance of knowledge management system which was developed for heritage management is an important challenge. However, in the local survey, it was identified that project knowledge and skills accumulated over many years were difficult to transfer due to technical, human resources and external factors.

Given this background, this study focuses on high human mobility of project members from a human resource aspect, and aims to establish and evaluate the knowledge management system to transfer accumulated knowledge and information for world heritage management in Luang Prabang, Lao P.D.R.

  1. Methodology/Data Analysis

Three methods were proposed to store and systematically share project information such as design document and manuals, and a cloud computing service called Evernote was identified as the most optimal choice. There are three major reasons to introduce Evernote: 1) simplicity to introduce the system, 2) free maintenance for software and server, and 3) ability to share documents between Lao and Japan. Training for creation and usage of the knowledge management system was conducted. After the training, over 350 contents were input into Evernote at the local site. Two types of evaluation, case trials and interviews, were conducted to measure the feasibility, effectiveness, and sustainability on the site. Case trials consisted of virtual situations where participants are supposed to solve problems by referring to technical documents created in project activities previously. Advantages and challenges were identified through observation in case trials. Ten participants from the local ICT team and Tokyo Tech team joined the evaluation.

  1. Findings

Results of the case trials and interviews revealed three major findings. Firstly, the introduced system is a potential tool to avoid knowledge loss. Working efficiency of users improved, and the number of times they asked help from colleagues reduced. Secondly, creating high quality contents is important for a sustainable knowledge management system. Four principles were identified to record technical documents in Evernote efficiently: 1) table of contents should be created technical documents in Evernote efficiently; 2) high resolution screen shots are recommended for the users to understand the contents easily; 3) captions should be written in each screen shot to give supplemental explanation; and 4) reviewing manual with colleagues is important to promote mutual understandings and check potential mistakes. Thirdly, there are two considerations that can be taken into account to sustain the knowledge management system, such as continuous update of information and regular review for technical development and contents management. The knowledge management system contributed to knowledge succession to new members, thereby achieving project sustainability.

Master Presentation (Aug., 2012)

Doctor Thesis (Aug., 2012)


GIS Analysis of Landscape Changes in Six Core Villages (2008-2017)
  1. Background/ Research objective

Heritage preservation had been gaining recognition around the world since 1995. World Heritage Site inscription had brought much‐needed opportunities and yet poses threats. The challenge was complex in historic cities because the needs of development often contradicted those of conservation. Rapid tourism growth, often accompanied by modernization, had degraded World Heritage Sites. Luang Prabang of Lao PDR was, without a doubt, facing similar circumstances. The ancient city was regarded as one of the most significant historic cities in Southeast Asia. It had experienced tremendous change following unprecedented growth in tourism and development pressure. However, there had been a lack of empirical evidence to ascertain how Luang Prabang has changed. In other words, the change in Luang Prabang was unclear.

Given this background, this study aimed to examine the changes that occur in Luang Prabang, Lao PDR. The investigation utilized the comparison of the landscape between 1999 and 2009 based on seven attributes adopted from Heritage Preservation and Development Master Plan (PSMV). The three specific research objectives were formulated: 1) to explore significant factors for the sustainable application of GIS in Luang Prabang; 2) to identify significant changes in the built environment of Luang Prabang between 1999 and 2009 through visualization; 3) to identify the reasons behind the significant changes from local stakeholders.

  1. Methodology/ Data Analysis

This study conducted four major activities. First, preparation prior to the application of GIS. Second, identification of a significant pilot site. Third, GIS application. Fourth, data analysis and interpretation. GIS was applied, alongside consideration such as a severe lack of data, inefficient data management, and lack of accurate digital base map. The built environments of 1999 and 2009 were compared, based on seven indicators of building attributes from the PSMV: 1) building usage; 2) building materials; 3) building roof materials; 4) building architecture, 5) building condition; 6) building height; and 7) building area size. the analysis of the change was supported by an investigation of the reasons behind the changes from local stakeholders. Statistical method were employed to validate findings and examine relationship between an increase of touristic use and significant changes, and the PSMV and significant changes.

  1. Findings

The built environment changed significantly in four aspects. First, there was an evident shift from residential to touristic use, in particular to guesthouse along riverbanks and main roads. Second, Lao traditional architecture replaced modern architecture along riverbanks. Third, modern building materials replaced traditional building materials throughout the peninsula. Fourth, traditional roof materials replaced modern roof materials. Despite the increase in touristic buildings, traditional elements replaced modern elements for architecture and roof material, contrary to what had been reported in the literature. Besides, it was found that the PSMV had a significant influence on the built environment. The built environment changed within the limit of preservation regulation. As a result, the empirical evidence derived was able to comprehend the state of conservation of Luang Prabang.

Doctor Presentation (Aug., 2017)

Doctor Thesis (Aug., 2017)


List of selected publications:


















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