River systems play a crucial role in local livelihoods since they provide water for agricultural production. The rapid increase in the number of factories impacts these river systems both positively and negatively. While industrial growth provides local communities with employment and income, it also causes air pollution and contaminates river systems because of industrial waste-water discharge. Pulp and paper mills are among the industries that cause air, water, and solid waste pollution, all of which impact livestock, agricultural production and local livelihood. At the time of this study in 2005, there were six pulp and paper mills operating throughout the country. Five were located in Vientiane Capital City and one in Vientiane Province. Compared to those in neighboring countries, these were small-scale pulp and paper mills with less than 200 tonnes of output per day. Among them, only the one in Vientiane Capital City had installed a waste-water treatment system. However, this did not operate full-time to save on energy and costs. Given that most of the Lao people relied on streams and rivers for their water consumption, the government recognized that the quality of water in these bodies was crucial, especially to the lives and livelihood of poor villagers. Therefore, in accordance with the Millennium Development Goals, the government set targets in order to improve the local people’s access to safe drinking water by the year 2015.

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An Assessment of Paper Mill Wastewater Impacts and Treatment Options in Vientiane Capital City, Lao P.D.R.