Water risk and responsibility: A political-chemical land genealogy for the Muang Sing Valley, Laos

Students: WONG Nok Yiu Vanessa; SONG Ziqi Sally

Instructors: Ashley Scott Kelly; Xiaoxuan Lu
Course: Studio Laos: Strategic Landscape Planning for the Greater Mekong
Programme: Bachelor of Arts in Landscape Studies
Date: June 2020


The project hope to achieve two main objectives by looking into the co-relationship between banana plantation and the Nam Ha Irrigation dam located in Northern Laos. First, to develop a more sustainable irrigation water model, with better quality and quantity. Second, to build up a balanced irrigation management strategy, so as to ensure equal and equitable access to irrigation water. Through research of data collection and online literature, a category of defining risks is developed for different groups according to biophysical characters, stakeholders’ capabilities, and operation mode. In respect of potential risks, this research project highlights the unequal distribution of water resources resulting from the difference in economic power among farmers. Traditionally, the main source of water being used for irrigation purposes is surface water, with groundwater consumed by human beings for drinking purposes. Whilst the construction of the Muang Sing Irrigation Dam increased the overall water storage in Laos, the water is mainly consumed by Large-scale landowners or joint-ventures parting with foreign-invested companies because of their relatively high price. As such, small households are being excluded when it comes to the usage of water resources reserved by the Dam. Afterward, the water storage of Dam will normally be distributed to middle-income families, which are in partnership with foreign corporations. Although small families could still gain access to natural water resources, under the current water management model they could rarely be benefited from the construction of the Dam. The remediation strategies aim to advocate to a fair distribution of resources according to the wealth and risk resistance evaluated previously. Another issue is the contamination accumulation of Cavendish banana plantations among the time due to high inputs of herbicides, pesticides, and fertilisers, whose harm remains in the soil for an extended period and threats the water quality. Thus, remediation strategies aim to improve the quality and equality of irrigation water in the long run by implementing various methodologies after the assessment on the degree of contamination.

Keywords: Muang Sing; irrigation model; water dynamics; equality and equity; sustainability

Enlarge Photo: The irrigation model, including methodologies, has been alternated due to the labour relocation within the district, and adaptation of cash crops in contract farming. By WONG Nok Yiu Vanessa, SONG Ziqi Sally.Enlarge Photo: The underprivileged has less access to natural resources and labour. For better-off households, they have moved on to the model of contract farming, where Chinese counterpart provide important inputs, including fertiliser, irrigation facilities. By WONG Nok Yiu Vanessa, SONG Ziqi Sally.Enlarge Photo: To examine the potential intervention site at the Muang Sing Valley through the change of land use, accumulated chemical pollutants generated in the agricultural landscape over the years; and lastly, connectivity of farmland and drainage relative to natural waterways and artificial drainage system. By WONG Nok Yiu Vanessa, SONG Ziqi Sally.Enlarge Photo: Water consumption mainly inclined to cash crops species plantation, while remaining are shared by domestics market necessity and villages daily usage. By WONG Nok Yiu Vanessa, SONG Ziqi Sally.Enlarge Photo: The major characteristic of the water dynamics in Muang sing Valley is that the current irrigation water model offers more access with higher priority to better off villagers to irrigation dams. By WONG Nok Yiu Vanessa, SONG Ziqi Sally.Enlarge Photo: There are four major scenarios in response to particular risks stakeholders facing in irrigation water access and their corresponding capability, adopting in-situ remediation technologies to ensure partly land is productive. By WONG Nok Yiu Vanessa, SONG Ziqi Sally.Enlarge Photo: The major challenge for users groups to participate is the lack of incentives, both economically and socially, and lack of support. The reliance between remediation projects on different scenarios is mainly regarding their spatial quality, and financial back-up. By WONG Nok Yiu Vanessa, SONG Ziqi Sally.