ADB to Help Lay Groundwork for Mekong Water, Sanitation Project

News Release | 15 October 2008

MANILA, PHILIPPINES - The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is laying the groundwork for a water and sanitation project that will help improve the health and lives of about 200,000 people living in nine towns in Cambodia, the Lao People's Democratic Republic, and Viet Nam.

The towns are situated in "economic corridors" that have roads linking the six countries of the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS). A key ADB strategy is to develop the corridors in order to strengthen cross-border ties, expand sustainable economic opportunities, and reduce poverty.

"The economic growth of secondary towns in the corridors will lead to higher incomes and improved quality of life for their people," said Paul van Klaveren, a Water Supply and Sanitation Specialist with ADB's Southeast Asia Department.

A $1.5 million technical assistance is being extended to pave the way for the Mekong Water Supply and Sanitation Project.

The Japan Special Fund, through ADB, will provide $400,000; ADB's Regional Cooperation and Integration Fund will extend a $500,000 grant; and an additional $300,000 grant will come from the Dutch government via the Water Financing Partnership Facility, administered by ADB. The three GMS governments involved in the project will contribute the equivalent of $300,000.

The towns identified for the planned project have high poverty levels and poor, or even non-existent, water supply and sanitation services. With improved infrastructure, they have the potential to develop into transport and tourism hubs.

The technical assistance will be used to determine the services needed for each town, the appropriate level of user charges, and the financial and technical capacity of participating public utilities and local governments, in order to design a project that is both realistic and sustainable.

At present, many local governments are unable to provide potable water and sanitation services 24 hours a day because of the high investment costs involved. At the same time, consumers face high tariffs that many cannot afford, or are unwilling to pay, making the rollout of new services financially unsustainable.

Major emphasis will also be given to improving sanitation services as few local governments in developing towns consider it a priority. Sanitation plans will be drawn up for each town, identifying cost-effective technologies, investment requirements, implementation and operating needs, and other actions needed to improve sanitation and promote hygiene.

The technical assistance will develop strategies to ensure that new services are both financially sustainable and affordable to end-users. It will also take measures to assist and promote private companies to invest in the sector, especially in poor urban areas.

The preparatory work for the project will run for seven months.