Laos, a country in Southeast Asia, is widely known for its mountain terrain. Laos is one of the poorest countries in Asia, succumbing to various issues.

As of now, water pollution is the most prominent issue which doesn’t have any imminent solution. So, what caused water pollution in Laos in the first place?

Table of Contents

1. Increasing Population

high population - Laos water pollution
Crowded nightlife in Vientiane (source)

The population of Laos is increasing with an annual growth rate of 1.5 percent. The more population there is the more use of water resources.

Increasing population leads to water sources getting exploited. The same water source is used for various activities. 

From household chores and drinking to human feces and cattle defecation, it pollutes water and worsens human health.

Laos still lacks a water pipe system in most areas. Thus, the only feasible option is direct water from its source, contributing to the rising water pollution.

2. Improper sewage management

Another cause of water pollution in Laos is improper management of sewage. Most of the rural places don’t have proper facilities for excretion.

Thus all the waste products go directly to the water sources. It makes the water undrinkable and also diminishes water quality. If this continues, there is no doubt that people will suffer from fatal diseases soon. 

Eventually, it disrupts the whole ecosystem, including the water resource. While rich countries like Singapore, the USA, etc., have already started converting sewage into drinking water, Laos is still suffering from inadequate sewage plans.

3. Farming

Farm - Laos water pollution
People returning from fieldwork in Vang Vieng, Laos (source)

The country’s economy is held by agriculture. About two-thirds of the population is involved in farming, and it contributes nearly half of the country’s GDP (gross domestic product).

As agriculture is the mainstay of Laos’s economy, various detrimental fertilizers and pesticides are used in large amounts. 

Though it can increase the fertility of the soil for some time, in the long run, it only pollutes. The fertilizers and pesticides used in the field mix up with the water.

Thus, it pollutes the water in every possible way. Firstly, it disrupts the habitats of water organisms and makes the water unusable for any activities to humans. 

4. Hydropower projects

hydropower dam - Laos water pollution
Dam of southern Laos collapsed in 2018, creating mass chaos (source)

Hydropower projects run by the government of Laos are another major cause of water pollution in Laos. Laos’s government has the ambition to make the country the “battery of Southeast Asia.” To achieve it, the government has crossed its limits.

In 2013, villagers complained that they could no longer drink the water from the Mekong river under the hydropower project because it was muddy.

Even with vigorous protests from villagers and NGOs, the government isn’t stepping down instead continuing the project. The big dams from the hydropower project obstruct pure forms of water.  

5. Industrialization

With recent industrialization in Laos, water pollution is getting worse than ever. Big factories and industries produce massive wastage and dump it in the river without acknowledging the consequences.

It would have never happened if there were rules not to use the water sources as dumpsters or come up with new ideas to dump the wastage. 

Neither the government nor the owners of factories are taking steps to preserve the water resource. Day after day, a new factory is established and contributes to water pollution. It will continue to occur until the government mandates some ground rules. 

6. Deforestation

Deforestation - Laos water pollution
Logging traffic of Laos (source)

Deforestation in Laos is a primary environmental concern, with Laos losing forest areas to legal and illegal logging.

Research by the global forest watch organization implies that in 2010, Laos had 17,9 MHA of natural forest extending over 78 percent of its land area; it lost 358 Kha of natural forest, equivalent to 184 mt of CO2 of emission. 

We know that deforestation is conducive to water pollution. Cutting down the trees loosens the soil causing soil erosion, increasing the sediment load thus decreasing the water quality.

7. Global warming

drought - Laos water pollution
Drought in Laos (source)

Global warming is yet another cause of water pollution. It disrupts water patterns that cause extreme weather events.

The rise in the temperature will kill the water-dwelling animals, creating an imbalance in the aquatic ecosystem. If the life cycle in water is harmed even subtly, it would directly impact water quality.

Lifes in water regulates the water resource, and once they die off, there will be no one to purify water. Hence, global warming is real, contributing to water pollution.

8. Burning of fossil fuels

The burning of fossil fuels is creating water pollution in Laos. When a fossil is burnt, it releases nitrogen into the atmosphere. The presence of excess nitrogen then reacts with oxygen, producing nitrogen oxides. 

And when it rains, it mixes up with water that causes acid rain. It contributes to pollution, harmful algae blooms, and oxygen-deprived aquatic zones.

It pollutes water and is hazardous to the whole water ecosystem. Not only that, the acid rain dissolves the building made up of stone or metal, and the debris flushes down to the river, where the pollution adds up to the water.

9. Urbanization

Urbanization - Laos water pollution
The traffic of Vientiane, Laos (source)

Laos’ economy is increasing; the rurality is no longer convenient. Thus, urbanization is taking place in a desultory manner to keep up with the economy. Plans are prepared and executed without the concern of the natural resource. 

The water resource is one of the resources getting exploited the most as no development activities can be possible without water availability.

It is something that the people and government are struggling to cope with. Ideas to solve these problems are coming up. However, no statements are effective enough to stabilize the exploitation of water resources.

10. Mining

Mining - Laos water pollution
Mining activity of Laos (source)

As Laos is ranked as one of the most resource-rich countries in Asia, more and more mineral deposits are discovered daily.

To find such mineral deposits, Laos is creating mines in large numbers. These mines directly affect the water resource.

Mining requires heavy use of water in processing ore. Heavy metal contamination occurs when discovered metals or minerals are exposed to water.

When the metals discharge from the stone, they run into the nearby water resources. It is how mining in Laos is causing water pollution.

Wrapping Up

Water pollution is a real issue in Laos. Other than mentioned causes, there are still more causes affecting the water and its biodiversity.

If we do not take any measure to control water pollution, it will grasp human life and nature in no time. People suffer miserably due to water pollution, and people’s ignorant actions cause water pollution.

Thus, in today’s time, Laos is already suffering miserably from water pollution, and the people and government are failing to do anything.

(Last Updated on March 29, 2022 by Sadrish Dabadi)

Saurav Khadka, with his A levels in computer science from Saipal Academy, owns a keen desire to know more about the environment. He wants to preach his knowledge to others by learning through his hobbies; reading, writing, traveling, and watching movies. He believes sharing his insight regarding a sustainable environment will undoubtedly generate positive perceptions in the people.