WASHINGTON, July 6, 2017 – Communities across Lao PDR will benefit from early warning systems and financing mechanisms against natural disasters, as well as the improved management of water resources, supported by $55 million in new financing by the World Bank Group, approved today by the World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors. The financing, consisting of $30 million for the Lao PDR Southeast Asia Disaster Risk Management (DRM) Project and $25 million of additional support for the Mekong Integrated Water Resources Management Project (MIWRM) will complement each other to ensure that management of natural resources protects people and livelihoods from disasters, and the country’s rich fisheries, wetlands and aquatic resources are sustained. Nearly 100,000 people in the Muang Xay area of Oudomxay Province will benefit from the DRM project, which would serve as a model to other cities frequently affected by flooding. The water project will deliver to the general Lao population a better monitoring of water resources, by establishing a national water quality laboratory and assessing water availability under different climate conditions. “We welcome World Bank support to improve disaster resilience and to better manage our rich water resources, which is well-aligned with the priorities of our 8th National Socio-Economic Development Plan for 2016-2020,” said Dr. Khamlien Pholsena, Vice Minister of Planning and Investment. “Lao PDR is vulnerable to risks associated with climate change and natural disasters. We need to integrate risk management into planning, investments in early warning systems, and appropriate financing instruments to reduce disaster costs and sustain economic progress.” Aiming to reduce the impacts of flooding and enhance the government’s capacity to provide hydro-meteorological services, the DRM project is co-financed by a $1 million grant from Japan’s Southeast Asia Disaster Risk Insurance Facility (SEADRIF). The DRM Project, part of a regional World Bank program on disaster risk management that includes projects in Cambodia, Lao PDR and Myanmar, will also help Lao PDR’s Ministry of Finance prepare and implement disaster risk financing instruments, and strengthen its capacity for financial planning for disaster resilience. “As Lao PDR rapidly develops, more people and assets will be exposed to the impact of natural disasters, unless necessary investments are made to improve the mitigation of these risks,” said, Jean-Christophe Carret, the new World Bank Country Manager for Lao PDR. “These projects will help establish an integrated system for disaster risk management and help ensure, through improved flood protection and resilient planning, that cities are safe and attractive environments.” Additional financing of the MIWRM Project, now extended to 2021, will support the development of a national water resources management system, in order to sustainably manage hydropower, irrigation, and water supply resources while protecting the environment and reducing flood and drought risks associated with climate change. The first phase of the project, approved in 2012, has helped strengthen irrigation of over 14,000 hectares of land, improve infrastructure for flood control including the upgrading of 10 flood gates, and introduced community fisheries through the establishment of fisheries management committees.
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