News 2010

Sunlabob begins construction of sanitation plant at Northern Agriculture and Forestry College

On Dec 7, 2010, Sunlabob, in cooperation with the Lao Institute for Renewable Energy (LIRE) and Swiss NGO Helvetas, began construction of a sanitation plant, the Decentralised Wastewater Treatment Systems (DEWATS), at the Northern Agriculture and Forestry College in Luang Prabang, Northern Laos. Funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, the installation came about after several feasibility studies conducted on site, as well as discussions with school officials. Throughout the year, Sunlabob and LIRE consultants visited the site several times to determine the most suitable location to install the plant.

In Laos, only 52% of the national population and about 18% of schools have access to wastewater treatment systems. Systems to treat wastewater are only available in some areas of the capital town while in rural areas, 80% of the people are not connected to any form of sanitation.

DEWATS offers a cost-effective and sustainable solution for wastewater treatment on the local level and an alternative to conventional centralised approach or on-site options. Without technical energy inputs and low maintenance requirements, DEWATS can improve sanitation conditions in areas with no, or inadequate, sanitation facilities. Participation and dialogue with users and other stakeholders, as well as hygiene education are important steps in ensuring that the provided infrastructure is used in an integrated and sustainable manner.

Targeted to be completed in Feb 2011, the DEWATS plant, with a capacity of 15 m³ per day, will treat 2 dormitories (128 people, 16 toilets), the canteen (80 people, 2 toilets) and the guardhouse (2 people, 1 toilet).

This installation aims to create a demonstration site for appropriate treatment and implementation of school based sanitation with health and hygiene education in Luang Prabang. Clean toilets and the provision of fresh water improve hygiene conditions, which leads to a significant reduction of health risk and infection. As this is an agriculture school, the treated water can be reused for irrigation at the compound for gardening.

The main challenge facing the implementation of the DEWATS in Laos is the lack of funding. To combat this problem, an operational model based on a public-private partnership is essential for the successful implementation of the system.