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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 drainage 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 ecosystems downstream.

CITYBLUES++ is a multi-stakeholder project delivered by Kristianstad University, Sweden and the Lao Institute for Renewable Energy (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 waste in modern facilities that can capture biogas for energy use. It is hoped that biogas can be captured on a sufficient scale to generate carbon credits for sale, and so yield revenues to be ploughed back into the city’s sustainable development. What’s more, rather than relying on the current outdated infrastructure of septic tanks and slurry channels, improved infrastructure could capture slurry for use in agriculture, thus enhancing the region’s food security 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 development (commerce, health, 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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