Vientiane, Lao PDR, September 18, 2014—IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, and the government of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic have presented a revised draft of the Water Resources Law at a public consultation. The revised law has proposed putting in place a water rights regime to foster more equitable use and management of water resources in Lao PDR.
More than 40 representatives from civil society, international organizations, private sector, development partners, and academia attended the consultation, which was held in Vientiane yesterday with the support of the World Bank. They requested to protect the customary rights of small-scale users whose livelihoods depend on their access to water resources and to further refine the definition of water uses. The draft law, which is scheduled to be approved by the National Assembly later this year, divides water uses into small, medium, and large but does not clearly explicate what constitutes each category of uses.
“The Water Resources Law is inextricably linked to the livelihoods, food security, and energy needs of the Lao people,” said Thoumma Saleumxay, Deputy Director General of the Department of Water Resources at the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment. “The approval of this law by the National Assembly is very important as it represents a solid step forward toward improving water resources management in Lao PDR.”
The Water Resources Law was first adopted in 1996 and requires revision in order to address growing large-scale uses and competition among water users in Lao PDR. More than 20 public consultations on the draft law have been held in 18 provinces across Lao PDR since 2012. The revised law now aims to regulate activities that have significant impacts on the quality and availability of water and river flow by putting in place a water rights regime.
Participants at today’s consultation also raised concern that the law may overlap with proposed amendments to forestry and land legislations, which could complicate regulation. They would like to see improved coordination among sectors using water resources and ensure that such resources will be managed in accordance with international practice.
“Over the past two years, hard issues concerning the Water Resources Law have been tabled, carefully discussed and negotiated,” said Kate Lazarus, IFC’s Senior Operations Officer in charge of its Mekong hydro program. “We will work with the Lao government to address all remaining issues in the final draft of the law before it is approved. IFC wants the law to be inclusive of all stakeholders to ensure the sustainable management of water resources in Lao PDR.”
IFC, in partnership with the World Bank, has been supporting the revision of the water resources law as part of its larger objective to improve environmental and social standards in the hydropower sector. During the past decade, hydropower investments have increased substantially in Lao PDR and the industry is among several natural resources-based sectors that the government plans to continue to develop to drive national economic growth.
Since 2011, IFC has been working in Lao PDR to improve environmental and social standards for the hydropower sector through working with financial institutions, government agencies and hydropower companies. Support to revise the Water Resources Law is an initiative of IFC’s Environmental and Social Advisory Services in Lao PDR and is funded by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Japanese government.
IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, is the largest global development institution focused exclusively on the private sector. Working with private enterprises in about 100 countries, we use our capital, expertise, and influence to help eliminate extreme poverty and boost shared prosperity. In FY14, we provided more than $22 billion in financing to improve lives in developing countries and tackle the most urgent challenges of development. For more information, visit www.ifc.org