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FEATURE: Integrating sustainable urban drainage, resource-based sanitation, biogas and food security


How can the capital of Lao PDR become a modern, vibrant and green city? Where drainageDrainage is the natural or artificial removal of surface and sub-surface water from an area. Many agricultural soils need drainage to improve production or to manage water supplies. networks are an integrated part of its attractiveness and a key component of its development – and deliver climate benefits, too? These are the questions explored by CITYBLUES++, a project supported by CDKN’s Innovation Fund.

Vientiane is at a juncture in deciding how it will deal with the serious impacts of its drainage water: wastewater causes pollution and health issues within the city as it is not properly treated, and its discharge damages aquatic ecosystemsA system of living organisms interacting with each other and their physical environment. The boundaries of what could be called an ecosystem are somewhat arbitrary, depending on the focus of interest or study. Thus, the extent of an ecosystem may range from very small spatial scales to, ... downstream.

CITYBLUES++ is a multi-stakeholder project delivered by Kristianstad University, Sweden and the Lao Institute for Renewable EnergyRenewable energy is power generated from infinite sources, such as wind or solar power. Conventional energy is generated from finite sources, such as natural gas or fossil oil. (LIRE) in partnership with many Lao government agencies. It aims to research and provide options for delivering an integrated, sustainable solution to Vientiane’s wastewater problem.

Over a series of workshops, stakeholders discussed the impacts of wastewater discharge – such as loss of fisheries productivity in surrounding rivers – and the potential for processing wasteWaste consists of unwanted and thrown away goods that often still have value as fuel or raw material. in modern facilities that can capture biogasBiogas is a flammable gas that accrues from the fermentation of biomass in biogas plants. for energy use. It is hoped that biogas can be captured on a sufficient scale to generate carbon creditsCarbon credits provide a way to reduce greenhouse effect emissions on an industrial scale by capping total annual emissions and letting the market assign a monetary value to any shortfall through trading. for sale, and so yield revenues to be ploughed back into the city’s sustainable developmentThe concept of sustainable development was introduced in the World Conservation Strategy (IUCN 1980) and had its roots in the concept of a sustainable society and in the management of renewable resources. Adopted by the WCED in 1987 and by the Rio Conference in 1992 as a process of change in .... What’s more, rather than relying on the current outdated infrastructure of septic tanks and slurry channels, improved infrastructure could capture slurry for use in agricultureCultivation of the ground and harvesting of crops and handling of livestock, the primary function is the provision of food and feed., thus enhancing the region’s food securityFood security is a condition related to the ongoing availability of food. Concerns over food security have existed throughout history. There is evidence of granaries being in use over 10,000 years ago, with central authorities in civilizations including Ancient China and Ancient Egypt being ... prospects. Noanta Hormpathoum of the Department of Public Works and Transport said that: “the proposed approach fits well with Vientiane’s policy to make the capital a clean, green city.

Jean O. Lacoursière of Kristianstad University said: “Over a decade of relationship building with practitioners and policymakers through previous research projects made clear to us that science is not the issue… ownership of the fact-finding process is critical to the acceptance of “challenging” approaches. Partner agencies are involved every step of the way.” Both the Vientiane Urban Development Administration Authority and the Department of Public Works and Transport have helped to convene stakeholders to debate and develop the resulting ideas and proposals. A dozen other line agencies with a stake in climate compatible developmentClimate compatible development is development that minimises the harm caused by climate impacts, while maximising the many human development opportunities presented by transitions to a low emissions, resilient future. Charting a path towards climate compatible development will be a major ... (commerce, healthThe health status of millions of people is projected to be affected through, for example, increases in malnutrition; increased deaths, diseases and injury due to extreme weather events; increased burden of diarrhoeal diseases; increased frequency of cardio-respiratory diseases due to higher ..., tourism, energy and education sectors) have also become involved.

The project leaders aimed to achieve broad understanding and buy-in from a range of government agencies at city and national level for this integrated vision. Over three proposal development workshops and intervening consultation process, they have now achieved this buy-in. The Governor of Vientiane Province Soukan Mahalath has issued a formal letter of support for a next phase and offered the municipal government’s full cooperation. A technical proposal for the next phase has been prepared, and should result in the implementation of a full-scale pilot of the ‘CITYBLUES++’ concept on the upper reaches of Vientiane’s drainage network.  Visit www.cityblues.la/ for further details.

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