Lao and international officials are revising the new draft amendments to the Law on Water and Water Resources which they hope will ensure sustainable and equitable water resource management in the future.

The officials, including representatives from civil societies, international organisations and the private sector attended a consultation meeting held in Vientiane yesterday to comment on the draft amendments to the law which was promulgated 17 years ago.

“I would like for the part icipants in this consultation to give their comments on the draft with a central focus on the difficulties project developers, especially hydropower project developers, are facing concerning water resources,” said the Deputy Director General of the Department of Water Resources, Mr Thoumma Saleumxay, who chaired the meeting.

The 1996 Law on Water and Water Resources has 49 articles, but the draft amendments will almost double this number.

Increasing competition between different water users has made it necessary to revamp the Law on Water and Water Management to improve the management of water resources, with the involvement of several government bodies becoming necessary. “There are at least three ministries, such as Agriculture and Forestry, Natural Resources and the Environment and Energy and Mines that need to be involved in water resources management,” said the Department’s Law Division Head Mr Kingkham Manivong.

The International Finance Corporation (IFC), in partnership with the World Bank, is supporting the revision of the water law, with several public consultations being made to give feedback on the draft over the past 18 months.

In his introduction to the draft amendments, IFC Consultant Mr Stephen Hodgson said the law should ensure environmental and social standards.

Mentioning hydropower development, he said every project should ensure environmental protection and meet the socio-economic needs of the people living along the river, as well as provide watershed management and meet international water quality standards.

The draft also deals with water-resource permit schemes and water pollution responses, the latter defining the obligations involved in the treatment of polluted water for which the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment may take measures against the offenders who caused the pollution.

It has defined the use and protection of groundwater and the regulations for bore drilling which state that the drilling of a well, including exploratory wells, may only be done once a well drilling permit has been issued by the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment. The level of authority required to issue this permit depends upon the scale of the proposed ground water use.

Concerning wetlands, the draft law has made stipulations about their protection, planning, development and community-based management, to give communities a voice on management perspectives, and the roles of related sectors in ensuring clean and safe water sources are available.

The IFC, the World Bank, and the Lao government have organised 18 consultations at regional and national levels to ensure that the new water law will meet the needs of all water users for years to come.

The Department of Water Resources aims to submit the draft amendments to the law to the National Assembly for approval by the end of this year.

Source: Vientiane Times
June 14, 2013