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Monday, June 17, 2024

Laos Faces ‘Water Scarcity Crisis’ Amidst Climate Change Challenges

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Climate change, a pervasive global challenge, has not spared Laos, exacerbating economic difficulties in the country, as highlighted by Sengphasouk Xayavong, Deputy Director of the Policy Division at the Water Resource Department of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment.

During the 10th World Water Forum on 22 May in Bali, Indonesia,Sengphasouk emphasized the crucial role of climate change in causing prolonged droughts in Laos, linking the issue with both “water scarcity” and economic development.

According to the Lao official, the long-term changes in temperatures and weather patterns could significantly affect energy production and agriculture, key drivers of Laos’s economy. She stressed that water scarcity could particularly harm agricultural activities, which employ a large part of the population, especially impacting farmers without access to irrigation systems.

In addition to climate change, the growing population’s high water consumption and unsustainable agricultural practices are “major contributors to water scarcity in Laos.” The country’s mountainous terrain further complicates efforts to ensure a reliable water supply to all areas.

Earlier this month, the problem became evident in Vientiane Capital, where households started facing water shortages and cuts. The Water Supply State Enterprise of Vientiane Capital acknowledged that the issue arose from increased water demand due to prolonged hot weather and frequent power outages, themselves caused by high electricity usage during the sweltering conditions. 

The situation escalated to the point where the Lao government issued a warning notice, advising residents to use water prudently. Electricite Du Laos called for patience and understanding from residents following numerous complaints. 

In response to the growing crisis, Sengphasouk reported that the Lao government  is actively addressing the situation. According to the official, the authorities have been heavily investing in water infrastructures and promoted international full

cooperation with key development partners, such as the United Nations Development Programme, the Ministry of Environment, the Food and Agriculture Organisation, the International Water Management Institute, the Australian Water Partnership, the Global Water Partnership, and the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation, among others.

These partnerships aim to ensure the sustainable and equitable distribution of water resources across Laos.

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