Small towns in Laos are experiencing an influx of migrants in search of better living conditions, increasing the strain on infrastructure and services such as water and sanitation, the U.N. and government officials say. Laos is experiencing a high urbanization rate of 4-5 percent per annum, adding to pressure on local authorities to provide basic infrastructure, according to the UN Human Settlements Program (UN-HABITAT). There are an estimated 139 small towns in Laos, and many of those along economic corridors – bordering Cambodia, China, Thailand and Vietnam – are seeing influxes from rural areas. “Many of these small towns experience high population growth, and increased pressure on the local environment. Small towns are now becoming increasingly polluted because of a lack of adequate infrastructure,” said Buahom Sengkhamyong, chief technical adviser for UN-HABITAT in Laos. As part of its regional Mekong water and sanitation program, the agency is providing improved services in small towns, especially along the economic corridors. (IRIN)

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