water gender millenium development goals progress and challenges in the lao pdr context n.
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WATER, GENDER & MILLENIUM DEVELOPMENT GOALS: PROGRESS AND CHALLENGES IN THE LAO PDR CONTEXT. Context and Relevance of Water-Gender Linkages to Achieving MDGs. Important to note that ‘gender’ means both females and males, while recognizing that women tend to be more disadvantaged

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context and relevance of water gender linkages to achieving mdgs
Context and Relevance of Water-Gender Linkages to Achieving MDGs
  • Important to note that ‘gender’ means both females and males, while recognizing that women tend to be more disadvantaged
  • Poor households rely disproportionately on natural resources and the environment for their livelihoods and income
  • The poor are more vulnerable to human-caused hydrological changes as well as natural disasters such as droughts and floods and to the ongoing impacts of climate change
  • On a broader scale, natural resources such as fisheries play a larger role in the national income and wealth of less developed economies
  • The contribution of water resources to poverty reduction and human well-being can be expressed through the lens of the MDGs
millennium development goals
Millennium Development Goals
  • Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
  • Achieve universal primary education
  • Promote gender equality and empower women
  • Reduce child mortality
  • Improve maternal health
  • Combat HIV / AIDS, malaria, and other diseases
  • Ensure environmental sustainability
  • Develop a global partnership for development


for example mdg 2 3 gender and education
For example…MDG 2 & 3 – Gender and Education
  • Environmental degradation contributes to an increased burden on women and children (especially girls) in terms of the time required to collect water and fuel wood, reducing the time they have available for education or income-generating activities
another example mdg 4 5 6 gender health
Another example…MDG 4, 5 & 6 – Gender & Health
  • Up to a quarter of the burden of disease worldwide is linked to environmental factors – primarily polluted air and water, lack of sanitation and vector-borne diseases; measures to prevent damage to health from environmental causes are as important, and often more cost-effective, than treatment of the resulting illnesses
  • Water- and sanitation-related diseases (such as diarrhoea) are one of the leading causes of under-five child mortality
  • Damage to women’s health from carrying heavy loads of water can make women less fit for childbirth and at greater risk of complications during pregnancy
  • Malaria, an annual killer of an estimated 1 million children under age five worldwide, may be exacerbated as a result of poor water management
welcome to lao pdr
Welcome to Lao PDR
  • Lao PDR is a small country in the heart of the GMS
  • Population of 6.21 million (2008), including a diversity of ethnic groups
  • The country is well endowed with natural resources and biodiversity
  • But the country faces numerous challenges: (i) a mainly agricultural economy surrounded by rapidly industrializing neighbors; (ii) an increasingly young population with limited education and skills; (iii) mountainous and sparsely populated areas beyond the reach of basic services and infrastructure; (iv) mounting pressure on fragile forest and water resources; and (v) limited national and local government capacity to raise revenues, to implement policies, and to enforce laws and regulations
socio economic development
Socio-economic Development
  • Lao PDR is classified as a least developed country in terms of annual per capita income, human development and economic vulnerability
  • Human development indicators have however been improving with Lao PDR now being ranked as a medium human development country
  • The Lao economy grew steadily through the 1990s with growth accelerating over the last decade; allowing for substantial reduction in the poverty rate in urban areas but has had less impact on poverty in remote provinces
  • The National Growth and Poverty Eradication Strategy (NGPES) from 2003 was intended to bring about better progress in reducing poverty
  • The NGPES includes poverty-focused action plans for four key sectors – agriculture / forestry, education, health, and transport, and additionally sets out inter-sectoral priorities for gender equity and environmental conservation
gender equality in lao pdr
Gender Equality in Lao PDR
  • Gender norms differ between urban and rural households in terms of division of labour, livelihood activities and decision making
  • The 1991 Constitution supports equal gender participation in economic, social and political life
  • Lao women play important roles in agriculture and fisheries (where women are more active than men), small scale business, manufacturing, and provision of basic services (especially education and health)
gender processes affecting women
Gender-Processes Affecting Women
  • Women bear a heavier burden of unpaid family work, including primary responsibility for nutrition, health and care of their families; poverty threatens their ability to meet basic family needs
  • Recent national household survey confirmed that Lao women and girls work on average more than one hour more per day than men and boys – the heavy workload on women and girls can impair their health and make in more difficult for girls to attend school
  • Most remote rural Laos do not have access to essential health services, with women being especially disadvantaged in accessing basic health services
  • Female-headed households and children, especially girls, in these households are particularly at risk of poverty
  • Health crises can be crippling for poor women and poor families
water resources
Water Resources
  • Lao PDR is well endowed with water resources, with average surface water volume of 60,307 m3 per person/yearly compared to 6,020 m3 in the East Asia and Pacific Region
  • Water is an essential part of the life and culture of the Lao people, and makes an important contribution to the countries socio-economic development goals – harnessing of hydropower potential is increasingly contributing to the economy
  • Overall, water demand remains low at roughly 260m3 per person in 2002; water usage is predominantly agricultural 82%, followed by industrial 10% and domestic 8%
  • Although Lao PDR has abundant water resources, development pressures and unsustainable exploitation of water resources Basin-wide has important implications for MDG achievement
gender issues in water sanitation
Gender Issues in Water & Sanitation
  • The gender benefits of improved water supply and sanitation are well recognized
  • Women and girls in rural Lao PDR, as in most rural societies, are mainly responsible for collecting water for household use and can spend a substantial amount of time at this task if the local water source is a distance away
  • Women are also primarily responsible for their families’ health, therefore potable water and sanitation services are extremely important in minimizing illnesses from water-borne diseases
  • Women’s own health also depends on clean water as bathing in dirty water increases the risk of reproductive tract and other infections
  • The GoL has made considerable progress in recent years in implementing a community-based, participatory, and gender-sensitive approach to rural water supply and sanitation
water quantity quality
Water Quantity & Quality
  • Access to safe drinking water sources, particularly in rural areas, is a crucial consideration for households
  • Reduced dry season river and stream flows can be problematic, affecting water availability, especially in wells, and increasing access time
  • Contamination of available water sources is also a concern; although water quality in rivers within Lao PDR and the Mekong is considered to be generally good, localized pollution of water sources does occur
  • Pressures of rapid demographic growth, socio-economic development and urbanization are resulting in worsening water quality; only 35% of liquid effluent disposal to inland surface waters is currently treated
  • Poor sanitation practices and low awareness of human health consequences exacerbates problem (e.g., multiple uses of the same water source for bathing, clothes washing, animal watering and drinking water withdrawals)
water related human health impacts
Water-Related Human Health Impacts
  • The quality of surface and groundwater utilized for community drinking water and other purposes is sometimes poor, leading to many types of diseases in both rural and urban areas
  • The effects of lack of access to clean water – either surface or groundwater – are mainly felt at the local level and particularly affect poor people in remote areas
example economic human costs
Example Economic & Human Costs
  • In 2006, Lao PDR lost an estimated USD 193 million due to poor sanitation and hygiene; equivalent to 5.6% of the GDP
  • Costs from poor sanitation encompass (i) spending on health care, (ii) loss of income or production and time losses associated with disease, and (iii) the value associated with premature loss of life
  • The majority of higher water access costs attributed to poor sanitation can be averted, as well as all the access time costs
  • Non-quantified benefits such as comfort, privacy and security are important, especially for women and the elderly
  • Good latrine access at the workplace and in schools has implications for female participation in traditionally male-dominated employment areas and has been shown to positively affect female enrollment and attendance
fisheries also under threat
Fisheries Also Under Threat
  • Freshwater resources are increasingly vulnerable as a result on increasing pressures on water resources in the GMS; this is worrying given the dependence of many rural communities on wild fisheries
  • MDG 1 Poverty & Hunger – Access to wild fisheries and knowledge of fish farming methods provide rural families with an important means to feed themselves and earn money
  • Fish and other aquatic food sources are a key dietary stable for many rural families in Lao PDR, and also an important contributor to household incomes; these benefits need to be protected if hunger and poverty are to be reduced and the MDG targets met
  • MDG 2 Education – Income from fisheries provides families with money for school supplies; school attendance is higher among families in which women have an independent income with these children also tending to eat better and be healthier, which has a positive effect on school performance
water resources management in the mrb
Water Resources Management in the MRB
  • The MRB countries are constructing or planning numerous hydropower dams – including main-stem dams – intended to support industrialization and help lift remote areas out of poverty
  • Predicted impacts of proposed hydropower development include changes in river flow volume and timing, water quality deterioration, and loss of aquatic and terrestrial biodiversity
  • Changes in dry season mainstream flows will also adversely affect communities situated along the Mekong River that are dependent on the river to meet their water supply needs – for example, availability of water during the dry season is important in terms of household access to safe drinking water, and changes in flow levels and regimes additionally affects cultivation success of riverbank gardens
hydropower development in the gms
Hydropower Development in the GMS
  • There are at least 82 existing (or under construction) large hydropower projects in the GMS, and at least a further 179 large projects identified as potential sites
  • With the exception of 2 existing main-stem dams and another large main-stem dam under construction in Yunnan (PRC), existing hydropower dams in the MRB (including those under construction) are all situated on tributaries (e.g., the new Nam Theun 2 dam in Lao PDR)
  • Attention is increasing shifting to development of main-stem dams, with 11 dams being considered in Lao PDR and Cambodia; another 5 main-stem dams are possibly planned in Yunnan
  • The total proposed main-stem dam development is alarming in terms of potential resulting environmental and social concerns
hydropower costs and benefits
Hydropower: Costs and Benefits
  • Yet major projects such as the Nam Theun 2 also provide crucial revenues for the Lao PDR government, enabling increased spending on health, education and environmental programs, including enhanced water supply and sanitation for smaller towns
  • Ill-considered and improperly implemented hydropower generation projects have the potential to undermine government efforts to achieve MDGs
  • Adverse environmental and social impacts of, especially, large dam projects are well understood and must be avoided or properly mitigated
example environmental impacts of hydropower projects
Example Environmental Impacts of Hydropower Projects
  • Resettlement causing serious social inequities
  • Blocking fish migration leading to decreased catches
  • Construction affecting water quantity and quality
  • Reservoir and riverbank soil erosion causing impairment to water quality
  • Effects on groundwater hydrology
  • Downstream flow variations disturbing fisheries
  • Downstream water quality impaired (e.g., reservoir biomass)

The Response: Ensuring Equitable Participation in Water Governance

  • Although the MRB is not characterized by water shortages, water issues are being given considerable attention because of rapidly increasingly Basin development and the trans-boundary aspect
  • The main challenge facing policy formulation in the MRB is to reduce water-related vulnerability – maintaining ecological health and avoiding social impacts by careful planning of dams and other development projects and adoption of appropriate and gender-focused mitigation measures (e.g., MRC has a gender toolkit for sector development)
  • The second action to reduce water-related vulnerability in the MRB is to reach consensus on equitable upstream-downstream water utilization (including environmental flow requirements) in the Mekong River
  • Lacking such actions, concerted efforts by less-developed countries such as Lao PDR to achieve MDG targets will be significantly undermined, if not reversed

Thank you!

Chandavanh Dethrasavong