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  Profile of Water and Sanitation in the Mekong Region

The government of Cambodia has taken a number of steps to meet these needs. First, the right for all citizens to have access to clean water as well as protection from water related diseases has been enshrined in the government's national policy, approved in July 2004 which is termed the Rectangular Strategy for Growth, Employment, Equity and Efficiency. The Royal Cambodian government's National Strategic Development Plan (NSDP) for 2006-2010, is developed to contain the government's priority goals reflecting the focuses of rectangular strategy: Good governance; Agriculture; Human resource development; Private sector development and employment and Rehabilitation and construction of physical Infrastructure. At national level the government focuses on some high priority strategic macro- goals and targets to be reached related to water and sanitation, including the Cambodian MDGs to raise the access to safe water source to 80%, and access to improved sanitation among urban population to 74% by 2015. Progress has also been made on privatization with waterworks in three towns being privatized.

Lao PDR:
In line with its national development policy to graduate from the status of least-developed country, the government of Lao PDR has adopted a National Growth and Poverty Eradication Strategy (NGPES) under which all of its development programmes are to be implemented. NGPES has identified water supply and sanitation as one of four high priority sectors to be developed in order to meet the government's economic growth and poverty eradication objectives. The government's national goal set for 2020 is to provide 24-hour per day access to safe water for 80% of the urban population. To meet this goal, the Water Supply Authority (WASA), under the jurisdiction of the Department of Housing and Urban Planning (DHUP), within the Ministry of Public Works and Transport (MPWT) has prepared an urban water sector investment plan to guide development for the period 2005-2020. The plan, which is estimated at $266 million, will serve an additional 1.95 million urban inhabitants, and is mainly focused on small-to medium- sized towns. The government has also formulated the National Socio- Economic Development Plan (2006-2010) whose main focus is to bring about changes in the quality and quantity of our basic socio-economic situation, which will create the strong foundation for Laos to move towards the industrial and modern state thereafter. In it, the Government proposes to increase the distribution of sanitized water to the population in urban and suburban areas. It will solve the issue of waste water and solid waste in the provincial capitals, industrial centres and hospitals.

Vietnam has experienced relatively high economic growth in recent years, with rapidly developing urban centres. Much of this urbanisation is based on newly arrived rural migrants, who place considerable demands on the town's urban services.

The Government is trying to address this problem through its Comprehensive Poverty Reduction and Growth Strategy (CPRGS), 2001-2005, which has targets of 80 per cent coverage for urban water supply by 2005, and 100 per cent coverage for sanitation by 2010.

It is widely recognised however, that these targets are overly optimistic and will need to be revised. It is estimated that of the $8billion required to meet the 2010 development targets, only $230million/annum is being invested at this stage.

The institutional and enabling frameworks have not attracted much private sector interest at this stage. Consequently, the Government is considering a concept that involves unbundling existing water utilities and corporatising them, with a view to improving their performance. Current reforms currently aim at decentralizing responsibility for urban Water Supply and Sanitation (WSS) services to provincial governments, strengthening sector institutions, increasing cost-recovery through user charges, and gradually eliminating government subsidies.

Yunnan & Guangxi Provinces, PR China:
Although water supply and sanitation programmes are currently underway in the Mekong Region, current levels of investment are grossly inadequate. Secondary towns, which have been starved of investment for decades, are particularly in need. With limited budgetary resources, Governments are severely constrained in their ability to meet the needs of these secondary towns.

Private sector participation may hold the key, but serious financing challenges lie ahead, as the secondary towns are home to many poor immigrants. Urbanisation presents yet a further challenge. It is currently out-pacing the development of water supply and sanitation and, at current rates of investment, percentage coverage rates are set to fall substantially before 2015. It is clear that some countries will not meet their MDGs by 2015, unless there is a paradigm shift in the levels of investment and in the commitment of the Governments to implement reforms.

In more recent times, the Government has realised that the participation of the private sector not only mobilises more resources, but can also introduce higher levels of technology and management expertise. The water and sanitation sectors therefore, are now welcoming private sector participation, such as build-operate-tarnsfer initiatives.

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