The Journey: Collective Intelligence (CI) to understand open burning

This blog post is the final part of a two blog series that shares the Lao PDR Accelerator Lab journey in applying Collective Intelligence to help the Sikhottabong district understand its problem on open burning. Previously on CI for open burning, we introduced the concept of CI and how we will apply that to understand waste management here in Vientiane.

September 3, 2020

Photo by: UNDP Lao PDR

What is the problem?

Vientiane, the capital city of Laos, home to almost 1 million people, is facing a waste management crisis. Trash is littered everywhere and anywhere; the sight of illegal dump sites is more apparent in just a short drive from the city center. The action of littering is seen worst during festivals and traditional events. This action has posed an extra burden to a city cleaning committee. Our previous experimentation on awareness-raising during the festival have informed us some key interesting insights  which we shared with  Vientiane City Office for Management and Services (VCOMs) for consideration.

Figure 1. Trash at a festival in November 2019


Littering and illegal dump sites may seem to be an issue when looking through a wider lens. However, if we take a closer look, from neighborhood and household, we could see that the open burning of trash is as prevalent as littering.  Grey smoke is visible throughout the city at dawn and dusk daily. The harmful smoke from open burning permeating through streets, gardens and houses could cause various reparatory diseases for people, especially vulnerable ones.

Open burning is not a recent issue; people burned their household waste a few decades back when waste collection services were not advanced and as prevalent as today. With the expansion of the city as well as the increasing of Vientiane dwellers, waste collection service has been running slow to keep up with this significant growth of urbanization. As a result of such missing service, among other factors, people find open burning the fastest and cheapest way to get rid of their household waste. Even with the regulation on open burning being imposed and widely circulated among communities, people still practice such a hazardous habit.

Figure 2. Open burning around Vientiane in broad daylight