VIENTIANE, Jan. 14 (Xinhua) -- The Lao government is to apply its Hin Nam Nor National Protected Area to UNESCO's list of world heritage sites next year, local online newspaper Vientiane Times quoted an official as saying on Sunday.
According to the report, the 88,000-hectare national park, some 230 km east of Lao capital Vientiane in Khammuan province, is being nominated as a potential Natural World Heritage Site because of its unique limestone karst formations and the area's rich biodiversity of wildlife and plants.
Laos will prepare all of the conditions and documents to nominate the Hin Nam Nor National Protected Area for World Heritage Site listing, Director General Thongbay Phothisane of Heritage Department under Lao Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism told Vientiane Times on Friday.
"We expect to complete the submission process in 2020. However, we cannot say if or when the documents will be approved by UNESCO," Thongbay said.
The process of submitting the Hin Nam Nor National Protected Area to the World Heritage Committee began in 1998, according to the ministry.
"We have made field surveys, held field discussions with all stakeholders and conducted a formal consultation meeting in preparation to apply for the status of World Heritage Site in favor of the Hin Nam Nor National Protected Area," Thongbay said.
Thongbay said he believed Hin Nam Nor would attract a large number of visitors and generate income for local people if it were approved as a World Heritage Site.
"With its huge potential, this area will contribute to social and economic development, especially for the people of Khammuan," he said.
The Hin Nam Nor National Protection Area is home to over 40 mammal species, over 200 bird species, 25 bat species, 46 species of amphibians and reptiles, over 100 fish species, and more than 520 plant species, according to the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism. Many of these species are considered to be endangered or vulnerable, not only in Laos but also globally.
In February, the Lao government will submit a document to UNESCO to nominate the Plain of Jars in Xieng Khuang province as a World Heritage Site.
Laos currently has two UNESCO World Heritage Sites -- the ancient city of Luang Prabang which was listed in 1995 and the pre-Angkor Vat Phou temple complex which was listed in 2001.