By Jeremy Sung
ICEM’s Jeremy Sung is visiting project sites in Lao PDR, Cambodia and Vietnam as part of an ICEM study into climate change threats and vulnerabilities in provincial towns. Here, he meets the Women’s League and finds out how climate change can exacerbate gender inequalities.
KAYSONE PHOMVIHANE, LAO PDR – 18 September 2013: It’s rainy season in Kaysone Phomvihane so we woke up to grey skies and constant drizzling. An early meeting with the project managers for ADB infrastructure investments was followed by the Department of Natural Resources and Environment (DONRE). DONRE manages meteorological and hydrological data for the town and the officials here were very interested in our climate change projections.
Our next stop was the local community hall, to meet members of the Kaysone Phomvihane Women’s Union. We talked briefly about how climate change can exacerbate existing gender inequalities. We conducted a snap poll, using a show of hands. Women representing four districts complained of insufficient access to water and at least a third of the room experienced more than five blackouts per month. We also heard that the women in particular face the challenges of poor quality roads to the markets – since it’s often the women here are who are responsible for purchasing household goods. The women also described a major storm event in March this year (2013) which caused widespread devastation.
All in all, it was a fascinating session. We are looking forward to documenting the experiences of local residents during extreme climate events over the course of the project.
It was back into the field for the afternoon. We examined a storm water canal that regularly overtopped and the northern flood gate, which, like the southern gate, was now out of order. We were shown low-lying streets that flooded after heavy rains (proven later that evening), before heading to our final destination: the town landfill site.
The open landfill site is located about 15km east of the city centre, within range of residential areas and is overflowing with waste. Both backhoes are broken so rubbish is building up closer and closer to the entrance. Drainage is poor and we observed pooling around the site – a perfect breeding ground for disease-carrying mosquitoes. Thankfully, there are plans to upgrade the site and hopefully the new design will take into account the changing climate conditions.