To meet these goals, the government of Lao PDR has prepared an urban water sector investment plan to guide development of the period 2005-2020. The plan, which is estimated at $266 million, will serve an additional 1.95 million urban inhabitants, and is mainly focused on small to medium sized towns. Realisation of the plan will need a sustained investment effort over the next 15 years.
Based on rapid technical and institutional appraisals, four towns in Lao PDR have been identified for participation in the Mekong Water and Sanitation Initiative. The two most fundamental criteria for selection were need (level of service coverage) and the incidence of poverty. The town appraisals included stakeholder consultations and workshops, as well as key informant interviews. Through a fast track Cooperation Agreement in Lao PDR an innovative community-based water and sanitation project for a small town in the north of the country has commenced. Under the agreement UN-HABITAT will provide US $250,000 and the counterpart contribution from the local community of Xieng Nguen is US $100,000 in cash and kind, and the local service provider will provide US $100,000 in kind.
UN-HABITAT has been invited by Asian Development Bank to provide around $0.5 million for capacity building on the $25 million Asian Development Bank funded North and Central Region Water Supply Project in Lao PDR. This agreement has been noted in the loan documentation, and will be followed by a more detailed memorandum of agreement.
To build country level capacity in Household Water Treatment Systems (HWTS) for Lao PDR UN-HABITAT is collaborating with the Centre for Affordable Water and Sanitation Technology (CWAST) of Canada with the two partners contributing equally to funding for capacity building, information dissemination, demonstration and promotion of HWTS. The Household Water Treatment Programme does not require high capital costs and is, therefore, affordable for small community organizations and cash strapped government agencies. The project, whose main objective is technology transfer, includes training, education, technical consulting and network building. It will also encourage and empower independent organizations to implement similar programmes on a small-scale.
Community Participation in Lao PDR
In an innovative demonstration of how communities can mobilize and work effectively with local authorities to meet their water supply needs, UN-HABITAT is partnering with the state-owned provincial water supply enterprise (NPSE, LUANG PRABANG,) in the province of Luang Prabang, and local communities to improve access to clean water for residents of Xieng Nguen, the third largest town in the Province.
The NPSE, LUANG PRABANG and the local communities have constructed a water supply system to serve three of the eight satellite villages of the town, with a modest grant from the Provincial Governor’s Office. The communities identified water sources from springs and built gravity fed water supply systems by contributing labour for digging the trenches and laying the water mains. With UN-HABITAT support, a fast-track project is being implemented to extend coverage to the remaining five villages in the town at a total cost of US$ 450 000. The local communities will provide $100,000 in kind, while the provincial water supply enterprise has committed a further $100,000 in kind.
The project will also support capacity building to enhance operational efficiency of NPSE, LUANG PRABANG, as well as the capacity of local artisans; demonstrate effective pro-poor connection charges and tariffs; and undertake campaigns to improve community awareness on environmental sanitation. This innovative approach requires a much lower capital outlay and significantly reduced operation and maintenance costs, ultimately resulting in lower tariffs.
Implementation activities on the Xieng Nguen demonstration project which started in early-September 2005 are expected to be completed in about 10 months, and will directly benefit around 6,400 people. The concept of revolving funds is being introduced to enable the poor to gain access to water and improved sanitation facilities.