The overarching development goal of the Government of Lao PDR is to quit least developed countries status by the year 2020 (MPI, 2006). Increased access to adequate urban environmental sanitation services (UESS) is recognised as an important element of socio-economic development, and is highlighted as a priority intervention in the government's Sixth Five-year Socioeconomic Plan 2006-2010 (SFSP). The Prime Ministerial Decree 14 (2000) provides for a decentralised planning system, delegating planning and implementation responsibilities to the district and village level, respectively, and promoting community participation in the development process. However, a number of factors hamper the effective implementation of the decentralisation policy, including the lack of supportive planning guidance. In practice, participatory planning has usually not been successfully applied in sub-district planning. Household-Centered Environmental Sanitation Planning Approach (HCES) is seen as a promising tool by national and provincial authorities to overcome some of the hindering factors.
A HCES project was launched in Ban Hatsady Tai, an urban village ("Ban") of Vientiane in 2007. Hatsady was established more than 50 years ago on a former wetland in the centre of the city which was filled to cope with the increasing population growth. Ban Hatsady Tai was selected as case study site for the testing of the preliminary HCES planning guideline as (a) the village lacks appropriate UESS; solid and liquid waste is being discharged within the village boundaries without sound management strategy, thus leading to a deterioration of the living environment and to increased health risks; (b) the local authorities and the community of Hatsady Tai agreed that the problems related to UESS must be tackled urgently and agreed to adopt the HCES planning approach with active participation of all main stakeholders, especially the community in the planning and decision making process; (c) there is an interest on the national level for alternative approaches to environmental planning. Most low-income households are grouped in the congested centre of the village, where environmental sanitation services are least developed.
HCES planning approach is not only a participatory approach but it also tries to empower the community's urban environmental management and planning by participating in the planning process, training on environment sanitation, setting up a community environmental unit, public awareness campaign, participating and contributing to construct facilities for sanitation services.
Director of Urban Planning,
Vientiane Public Works and Transport Institute. Lao PDR