Vientiane Water Supply Plagued by Budget Shortages

2013-07-23
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Vientiane residents throw buckets of water to celebrate the water festival on April 13, 2012.
Vientiane residents throw buckets of water to celebrate the water festival on April 13, 2012.
AFP

Residents of the Lao capital Vientiane may have to brace themselves for extended chronic water shortages following an admission by the state-owned supplying company that it cannot address the crisis immediately due to a lack of funds and production capacity.

The Vientiane Water Supply Enterprise (VWSE) says it can only deliver two thirds of the water needed by the expanding city, which is plagued by dry seasons that take a toll on supply.   

Following complaints from residents in several parts of the city that they have not been receiving enough tap water, the VWSE said it cannot increase production to meet the city’s rising demand.

Taps have been releasing irregular trickles of water in recent months in some areas in the outskirts of the city and neighborhoods situated on higher ground following dry season shortages.

Some residents even complained to VWSE that they had to store water on their own in order to have enough for daily use.

Water shortages frequently occur in the city during the November through April dry season, and this year’s shortages that began in January grew more severe amid hot weather in March and April, with occasional shortages in some areas after that period.

VWSE director Khampheuy Vongsakhamphouy said the company would need more funds to expand water treatment facilities in order to supply all of the water need by the city’s 850,000 residents.

“More people are moving to the city, but water production is still the same due to the lack of budget to expand,” he told a press conference held earlier this month in response to the residents’ complaints.

“However, the company will try to increase production,” he said.

Keeping up with expansion

The city’s four water treatment plants have a combined capacity of 180,000 cubic meters (6.3 million cubic feet) per day, while the city needs more than 300,000 cubic meters (10.6 million cubic feet) per day, he said.

Customers’ failure to pay their water bills also contributes to the lack of funds, he added.

Another official at the VWSE, speaking on condition of anonymity, told RFA’s Lao Service that while the city’s population has grown, the company’s capacity to delivery water has remained the same.

“The main reason for the water shortage is that social economic development is rapid,” he said.  “[Our] water supply expansion project cannot keep up with the development due to the lack of budget.”

The city’s population has risen rapidly. According to the national census it is expected to more than double to 1.44 million by 2030 from 690,000 in 2005.

According to the state-run Vientiane Times, VWSE is building a new treatment plant in Dongmakkhai that will have a production capacity of 100,000 cubic meters per day. It did not say when the plant will be completed.

The paper reported late last year that the Lao government is aiming for 80 percent of Vientiane residents to have access to clean water by 2015.

Reported by RFA’s Lao Service. Written in English by Rachel Vandenbrink.

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