Government Expresses Concern Over Rapid Urban Development

Laos National Urban Forum was held on 31 October in Vientiane.

The government has utilized international funding of around USD 300 million to support systematic urban planning and development for the last 15 years.

Minister of Public Works and Transport, Mr. Viengsavath Siphandone presented a report regarding the progress and hurdles the department encountered at the first Lao National Urban Forum in Vientiane this week.

He said, “Urban development is a matter of global importance because cities are central to socio-economic and environmental development. Urban development is the responsibility of all sectors of society, including the government.”

The government has conducted comprehensive urban planning for 148 towns and cities in Laos and frequently updated these plans according to socio-economic growth.

Unlike other developing countries, Laos only has a few homeless people or densely populated areas. However, residents are often facing expensive housing prices and space constraints due to rapid growth in cities and towns combined with unsustainable housing development.

Unsystematic urban growth without following proper planning and regulations has led to traffic congestion, poor drainage, and flooding, and improper roads, and has also affected electricity and water supply, internet installation, sewage treatment, and garbage collection services.

The theme of the first Lao Urban Forum was “Resilient and Inclusive Urbanization” and Mr. Viengsavath said that this line of work requires contribution from both public and private sectors.

Global attention to urbanization has also affected how it is approached and tackled in Laos.

The Head of UN-Habitat of Laos, Dr. Avi Sarkar noted in his presentation that the number of urban residents is on the rise at a rate of 4.9 percent per year, which is the fastest rate in the region. As a result, more than half of the population is expected to move to an urban area by the next decade.

The Executive Director of UN-Habitat, Ms. Maimunah Mohd Sharif added that it is vital for Lao cities to grow in a sustainable, inclusive way to prevent the country from suffering adverse impacts like many other nations.

The UN Resident Coordinator, Ms. Sara Sekkenes, delivered a comprehensive overview of the context of Lao urbanization while suggesting that alongside a national urbanization plan, it is crucial to focus on localized urban planning as well.