First Lao province approves FSM regulations
Sanitation coverage has been increasing in Laos. However, like many developing countries within the region and beyond, Laos has also started to face difficulties in managing faecal sludge. Septic tanks and pits require emptying when they are full to keep the toilets running. A lack of FSM services, however, can result in the disposal of raw sewage into roadside ditches, open bodies of water, and the surrounding environment, which eventually creates risks to public health. Absence of any regulatory framework limits the government’s ability to contribute to, assist, regulate, and improve the service.
In order to address this gap in service, SNV in Lao PDR facilitated the planning process and supported the provincial government of Savannakhet to formulate a regulation for improved faecal sludge management services in the province, as a part of the Sustainable Sanitation and Hygiene for All programme in Lao PDR. The process required a series of consultations with a number of key departments in the province, including:
- Provincial Department of Natural Resource and Environment - PDoNRE
- Provincial Government Administration Office
- Provincial Department of Health - PDoH
- Provincial Department of Agriculture and Forestry - PDoAF
- Provincial Department of Public Work and Transportation - PDoPWT
- Provincial Department of Planning and Investment - PDoPI
- Urban Development and Administration Organisation - UDAO
- Provincial Department of Culture and Information - PDoCI
- Provincial Department of Justice - PDoJ
- Provincial Rural Development and Poverty Eradication Office -PRDO
Finally, the regulation was prepared, agreed upon by all the departments, passed through the formal vetting process, and was approved by the provincial authorities in September 2015. The Provincial Department of Natural Resources and the Environment has been given the authority to enact this new regulation. This regulation encompasses a twofold purpose: to avoid the pollution of social and natural environments with human waste, and to encourage and promote entrepreneurs in the private sector who can provide FSM services in a proper way. It stipulates the obligation of public and private areas to have appropriate septic systems and to ensure that they are properly emptied when full.
Service providers, including septage vacuum truck businesses and Wastewater Disposal Service Providers, must be properly registered, maintain their skills and equipment, and carefully follow specified regulations on the transport and transfer of septage. Wastewater Treament areas are required to follow guidelines for construction and maintenance of facilities, and disposal of additional waste products existing within septage. In addition, the regulation also identifies the roles and responsibilities of different stakeholders as well as consequences for both violation and good performance. Information about these innovative regulations has already sparked interest and consideration by other provincial governments in regulating safe management of faecal sludge within their own jurisdictions.