Revision to the Law on Water and Water Resources

Lao law - Update on the Law on Water and Water ResourcesOn 11 May 2017 the Draft Amended Law on Water Resources (the “Draft Law”) was adopted by the National Assembly and is currently under committee review.

The Law on Water and Water Resources (the “Law“) has been in its current form since 1996 and the ongoing review intends to clarify and improve provisions of the Law which have caused difficulties in interpretation and implementation.

The amendments to the Law  aim to develop water resources in an environmentally sound and sustainable manner and in accordance with the international best practice to ensure the protection of water resources and ecosystems. New provisions have been added on water rights and use, including waste-water discharge permits, wetlands and water-resources protection, ground-water management, and reservoir management. Additionally, the Draft Law expands the terms and conditions of large, medium, and small-scale uses and includes articles on environmental flows for hydropower as well as stipulations related to irrigation use.

A significant development is the establishment of a National Water Resources Data and Information System administered by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (“MONRE”), the details of which will be set out in a subsequent specific regulation. Access to information and data stored in the system will be available to all individuals and organisations. The Draft Law also grants greater responsibility to the MONRE to develop and implement management plans of river basins throughout the country.

Another promising addition is a requirement for minimum water flow determinations to be made that set a minimum threshold for all watercourses to meet the basic needs of people whose livelihoods rely on them and the sustainability of the ecosystems within the affected area. In addition to the new Water Resource Reserved Areas scheme, designated for the protection of water resources, the Draft Law appears to be providing legal mechanisms to fulfill its ambitious aims.

The final Draft Law shall be submitted on 22 June 2017 to the Standing Committee of the National Assembly for consideration.