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SINGAPORE | MALAYSIA | THAILAND | INDIA | INDONESIA | PHILIPPINES | VIETNAM | CAMBODIA | MYANMAR | LAOS | CHINA
Laos, the landlocked Southeast Asia nation of 6.3 million people, officially stated in 2012 its goal to graduate from the United Nation’s list of Least Developed Countries (LDCs) by 2020. More than a quarter of the population lives under the poverty line. Forty percent of the people don’t have access to clean water. More than a quarter of the people don’t have access to electricity. Recognizing the crucial role of energy and clean water in the sustainable development of the country, the Lao Institute for Renewable Energy (LIRE) takes a comprehensive, community-based approach to finding renewable energy and clean water solutions that can be viable long-term alternatives to conventional practices.
Take, for example, LIRE’s approach to provide clean, drinkable water in rural areas of Laos that have no access to electricity. In collaboration with commercial partner Sunlabob Renewable Energy, LIRE developed a solar-powered water purification system that is managed locally by a village entrepreneur (Village Water Technician) and a community-based governance committee (Village Water Committee). The local water source is pumped and purified through the power of the sun and no longer needs to rely on expensive, dirty diesel generators which saves villagers money and protects their health and well-being.
Access to clean water is only one of the benefits of LIRE and Sunlabob’s inclusive operational model. Continual income is generated for the Village Water Technician who is responsible for maintaining and managing the system, as well as for the Village Water Committee who oversee the system. Clean water is enabled by clean energy while income-generation within the community is established. This combination of sustainable technology and community inclusion are what creates the long-term self-sustaining approach that both LIRE and Sunlabob advocate and utilize to improve the lives of rural people in Laos. In addition to finding a viable approach to solar-powered water purification, LIRE also focuses its technical and socio-economic research on developing sustainable pathways for biofuels, pico-hydropower, solar power and lighting and wastewater treatment.