VIENTIANE (Vientiane Times/ANN): The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved a US$35 million concessional loan and a US$10 million grant for the Urban Environment Improvement Investment Project to help support sustainable, inclusive and resilient urban development in Luang Prabang city.
The project is expected to benefit 104,500 residents and 1.3 million annual visitors by 2031.
Luang Prabang city is a major transport and tourism hub in northern Laos with a fast-growing urban core, situated at the junction of the Mekong and Khan rivers. Its compact historic precinct and surrounding landscape were added to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) World Heritage List in 1995.
Since then, its tourism and population growth has triggered outward city expansion and new economic opportunities. However, growth has also brought some challenges including traffic congestion, littering, and crowded tourist attractions.
The development of much-needed solid waste management and wastewater treatment facilities, urban roads and footpaths, and public green spaces has not kept pace with skyrocketing demand, causing environmental degradation and diminishing the town’s liveability.
ADB Country Director for Laos, Sonomi Tanaka, said “Luang Prabang’s precious heritage and the livelihoods it supports are increasingly threatened by unplanned urban development, climate change, and disasters that disproportionately affect women and vulnerable groups.”
“Better urban infrastructure, environmental management and tourism services, together with gender-responsive integrated urban planning and management, are needed to help imrove the quality of life in Luang Prabang and make it more resilient to shocks.”
According to the ADB, innovative project components include home-, community-, and training facility-based childcare pilot schemes for recipients of higher education and vocational training scholarships that will be offered to female officials employed in the water supply, sanitation, public works, and tourism sectors.
“The project will establish a women-led creative industries business development network and prepare Laos’ first creative city strategy and action plan. Women will also be trained to manage smart infrastructure solutions following the Luang Prabang Integrated and Smart Urban Strategy, prepared under the ADB-administered Asean-Australia Smart Cities Trust Fund,” the ADB stated.
Capacity development to support tariff reforms, strengthen financial management, facilitate private sector investment, and improve disaster preparedness and response will complement the project’s infrastructure investments.
The project will enable city authorities to pursue a sustainable urban growth trajectory that protects its built, natural, and intangible cultural heritage and creates a liveable city for all.
Luang Prabang is infused with local Buddhist culture and traditions. The world heritage town features a mix of distinctive Buddhist and French colonial architecture set in a tropical riverine landscape, surrounded by distant hills. - Vientiane Times/ANN