The That Luang stupa at the heart of festival celebrations last year

A cleaner That Luang Festival: It Starts With Me

Vientiane, 15 November 2023 - In a unified effort, faith leaders, government agencies, civil society, private sectors, and development partners join forces to avert a waste management disaster during the upcoming That Luang festival.

We all have witnessed or seen images of garbage in Vientiane’s streets in the past years after a week of celebrations of That Luang festival. More recently, the Boat Racing festival exacerbated the issue with considerable amounts of single-use plastic strewn along the Mekong River bank roads. While accurate figures are not available for the amount of waste generated through the festival period, we can fairly say that it tops up the already consequent 600 tons produced every day in Vientiane Capital1, the equivalent of 20 football fields, disposed of every day not further than 32km away from the capital’s centre. While the efforts of the Government of Lao PDR are commendable, including the recent first national action plan on plastic, and with the ongoing efforts to draft the first UN plastic treaty, there is still a long way to go for Laos to reach the Sustainable Development Goals 11 (sustainable cities and communities), 12 (responsible production and consumption), and 14 (life below water) by 2030. 

Although plastic pollution looks too big to tackle individually, small actions, compounded by all of us, together, can go a long way. 

Initiated last June by World Vision, the It Starts With Me campaign is a good example of the compounding effect of joint efforts. The campaign has federated a wide range of stakeholders, including the faith leaders of the Dharma Mobility Association and Medtha Tham, local organisations like Zero Waste Laos, the Children’s Centre for Education and Culture (CECC), Green Vientiane, government agencies (Vientiane City Office for Management and Services), INGOs (WWF), and development partners like the European Union Delegation in Lao PDR.   

After successfully supporting the plantation of 20,000 trees across Laos with Zero Waste, the aid agency is taking an extra step forward to fulfil its promise to the children of Laos and ensure their voice is heard to claim their right to a healthy planet through this awareness-raising campaign during the largest festival of the country.  

“We all have a role to play in the fight against climate change, at all levels. It can be as simple as bringing your reusable cup to buy a beverage on the go. But more importantly, we all have a moral duty to ensure our children live in a decent world in the future,” says Nicolas Charlassier, lead of the campaign for World Vision. “We are happy to see the same passion and commitment fueling our partners to ensure the That Luang festival is a clean place for Lao people to celebrate this joyful time”.  

The campaign partnership will be supporting the festival's organising committee with more equipment to ensure proper waste management throughout the festival, and mobilising volunteers from youth groups to sensitize the public on proper waste management. All these efforts to respect the sacred heritage of the That Luang festival would be in vain without your proactive participation: put the right trash in the right bin, bring your own tote bag or reusable cup, avoid single-use plastic… A cleaner That Luang festival starts with me. 

(Photo credit: Philippe Arramburu)