Vientiane Times, February 16, 2013
Naxaithong district officials are concerned that the water level in the Nam Xuang Reservoir in Vientiane may drop because people are encroaching into forested watershed areas and cutting down trees.
Many people expected the water level to fall last year and were pleased when this did not happen.
“But we’re afraid that the water level in the reservoir will decrease because the water in the Nam Houm Reservoir, which is 9km away, has fallen by about half,” Deputy Governor of Naxaithong district Mr Khampaseuth Thipak told Vientiane Times on Friday.
The Nam Houm reservoir is abnormally low because there has not been the usual amount of rain in the last few years, officials say. Normally, the volume of water in the reservoir is about 60 million cubic metres.
The reservoir is now unable to supply water to the more than 1,000 hectares of wet-season rice fields in the area through the irrigation system it feeds.
If the volume of water remains at the current 44 million cubic metres throughout the dry season the reservoir won’t be able to irrigate all the rice fields that depend on it.
All the farmers in the area of the Nam Houm irrigation system use water from these channels for their dry season rice fields.
After district authorities noticed that the Nam Houm reservoir was storing less water, in July last year they created a project aimed at preserving the watershed area so that water supplies would be sustainable.
The project, which will run for 10 months, aims to inform villagers about forest protection and to raise awareness of the need for conservation measures. The goal is to help people living around the reservoir to understand how they can make a living without felling trees.
Mr Khampaseuth said the authorities had achieved 55 percent of their objectives in helping people to understand how they could protect forests.
They are advised not to cut down trees around the reservoir, particularly in the watershed area, as this could mean the area will attract less rainfall in the wet season.
Forests also help to reduce air pollution, acting as a carbon sink, so if large areas are felled this creates another negative impact on the environment.
Trees absorb rainfall and slow the flow of contaminated storm water towards villages and the surrounding area.
“I haven’t said that the people of Tham, Sivilay, Phonxay, Phonsy and Phonthong villages should not grow crops in the forests around the Nam Xuang Reservoir, which they do on an area of 1,236 hectares, because this is their livelihood,” Mr Khampaseuth said. “But I have banned them from cutting down trees.”
If people destroy the trees they won’t get enough water from the channels supplied by the Nam Xuang Reservoir to feed their thousands of dry season rice fields and cash crops each year.