Laos presents an interesting case of a surface water-dependent, developing country that may accelerate progress on a number of United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by giving greater priority to the sustainable development of its groundwater resources. This is due to increasing seasonal variability in water availability as a result of climate change and the existence of aquifers with relatively good potential for groundwater development. Historically, limited attention has been given to groundwater, and this is hampering the application of knowledge and capacity to explore, develop and manage the resource. However, with the country increasingly affected by droughts, attention is quickly turning to groundwater as a perennial, relatively easily accessible water source, especially in the lowland areas with the highest proportion of arable land.
One of the first major multidisciplinary research projects on groundwater in Laos was recently completed by the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) and partners. Project partners from the government and academic institutions included the Lao Department of Water Resources (DWR), the Natural Resources and Environment Institute (NREI) of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MoNRE), Lao Department of Irrigation (DoI) from the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF), and the Faculties of Water Resources (FWR) and Environmental Sciences (FES) of the National University of Laos (NUOL). Other partners included Khon Kaen University (KKU), Thailand, home to a national groundwater research center, and the regional Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES), Japan, a partner in the Groundwater Solutions Initiative for Policy and Practice (GRIPP). The project was funded by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) and the CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems (WLE), and supported by Funders contributing to the CGIAR Trust Fund.
The project, which focused on the use of groundwater for agriculture and its proper governance, worked on a broad portfolio of activities centered around two thematic areas: (i) groundwater resources assessments and management; and groundwater irrigation potential, technologies and practices. Both areas were underpinned by a strong commitment to capacity building and training. In doing so, the project strived to strengthen three of the key pillars of groundwater governance – generation of scientific knowledge, capacity development and supporting policy development. A collaborative Research Highlight Report provides a review of project findings, early impacts and lessons learned, as well as links to research outputs. The report should appeal to a broad audience, in particular people with an interest in groundwater resources of the Greater Mekong Subregion and those involved in similar projects in other regions.
Read the report:
Pavelic, P.; Villholth, K.G. 2019. Research to support sustainable groundwater development and governance in Laos. Research Highlight Report. Colombo, Sri Lanka: International Water Management Institute (IWMI). CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems (WLE). 13p.
News coverage highlighting the outcomes of the project