ADB funds Nam Ngum reservoir development

VIENTIANE (Vientiane Times) - The Asian Development Bank is providing US$47 million for infrastructure development in Vangvieng district and around the Nam Ngum reservoir to accommodate the growth of tourism in Vientiane province. 

Director of Vientiane province’s Department of Information, Culture and Tourism, Mr Khamfong Buathong, told Vientiane Times yesterday that construction is expected to begin next year.

“The infrastructure development project at the Nam Ngum reservoir, which is located in Vientiane province’s Keo-oudom district, is currently in the survey and design stage,” he said.

“If the proposed infrastructure and tourism-related facilities are built as planned, we believe many more tourists will visit the reservoir,” he added.

The planned developments include a wharf, parking, community market and a fishing village, as well as a garbage collection site. 

In addition, a 6-km road will be built to connect to Road No. 10, which should help to address congestion around the reservoir. 

Officials say the number of visitors has been increasing every year, but there is a lack of facilities so authorities want to improve the situation. 

Some companies have signed memorandums of understanding with provincial authorities, expressing their interest in building resorts and other facilities at the reservoir.

If these projects are approved and go ahead, it will certainly add to the freshwater lake’s attractions.

The newly appointed provincial governor of Vientiane province, Khamphan Sitthidampha, stressed the importance of environmental protection and sustainability while drawing more tourists to the reservoir.

He said the reservoir was perceived as Laos’ inland sea due to its vast area and that the freshwater lake and its surrounding woodland must be conserved.

The Nam Ngum reservoir is a popular destination for holidaymakers, being just 80 km from the capital.

Local businesswoman Ms Toukta Phommachack, who operates a restaurant, guesthouse and boat service, said more Chinese people were coming to the reservoir.

“On weekdays, we get at least 100 tourists each day but at the weekends between 150 and 300 people come here,” she said.

“At present, Chinese tourists account for 70 percent of all visitors. But we will get more Korean and Thai tourists in the high season.”   

Many visitors take boat trips to explore the islands and eat fresh fish, which are a menu mainstay at restaurants and on cruises.

Provincial authorities also intend to develop tourism links between the reservoir and Vangvieng district - the two main tourist destinations in the province.

In Vangvieng district, the main developments under the ADB-funded project will include a road and bridge across the Xong River, as well as other tourism-related facilities.