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 finds out how devastating poor drainage systems can be in rural towns.
KAYSONE PHOMVIHANE, LAO PDR – 17 September 2013: Today we’re in In Kaysone Phomvihane (Lao PDR), conducting meetings to analyse critical infrastructure and discuss climate change threats and vulnerabilities with government officials and local groups. We started this morning with a meeting at the Provincial Department of Public Works and Transport. The Director, Dr. Sengthong Vangkeomany told us that they were facing increasing climate change challenges in Kaysone Phomvihane, and agreed to lend us any support necessary to undertake the study
We met with Mrs. Phouthalom Saysanavongphet, who is managing the implementation of seven ADB-funded infrastructure investments in the province, including five in Kaysone Phomivhane. In subsequent meetings with the Governor of Kaysone Phomvihane District and officials from several departments, we found that all participants were extremely interested in the project and highly engaged with the issue of climate change.
Already, possible inter-linkages between our project and existing work are becoming apparent. For example, we learnt about a ‘Green Schools’ program being undertaken here in Lao PDR, designed to raise awareness of environmental issues in students. This program may benefit from the information gathered through our project.
A recurring topic of conversation was poor drainage. According to the officials we spole to, it is often the case that solid waste clogs many of the drains in the town, which leads to flooding during heavy rain.
In the afternoon we ventured out of the meeting rooms and into the streets of this small town. It was often a bumpy ride between sites, since many of Kaysone’s roads are covered with potholes and drainage is poor.
At the central market we witnessed firsthand the impact of clogged drains. The quality of the road is rapidly declining with water pooling on the surface. Heavy vehicles are increasingly eroding the fragile top layer of asphalt.
From there we witnessed the Mekong riverbank, in dire need of reinforcement, and a broken floodgate in the south of the town. The floodgate is supposed to open and close with the rising water levels but these days it is permanently stuck in place, neither stopping the Mekong from encroaching on the city, or allowing flood waters to discharge.