Raising Awareness about waste management at That Luang Festival

The Golden Stupa, or Pha That Luang, is the national symbol of and most important religious monument in Laos. Boun That Luang is Vientiane’s most important Buddhist festival. Traditionally, the That Luang festival is held over three to seven days during the full moon

of the twelfth lunar month (November— the date is different each year). People from all over Laos come to crowd around the Pha That Luang (stupa) for one last candlelight procession, bearing posies of flowers, incense and candles. A firework display normally marks the end of the celebration, and recently the festival has included a trade fair which starts a few days prior to the actual full moon. With thousands of people visiting That Luang over multiple days, and an abundance of food and trade stands, waste generation at the festival is an increasing issue. This year, students (1st and 3rdyears) and teachers from the Faculty of Forestry at the National University of Laos implemented a Mobile Conservation Unit (MCU) to combat the problem. Every day from 5-10 p.m. from 30 October to 3 November, members of the MCU and staff of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment raised festival visitors’ awareness about garbage prevention and proper waste disposal through outdoor activities and information provided at a booth. MCU and MoNRE volunteers walked around That Luang to collect garbage and encourage people to join the collecting, which drew a lot of attention. Even if people did not visit the MCU booth, they received the message from written signs, speaking with volunteers, and seeing the collecting action as they walked around.


The main message, “Reduce – Reuse – Recycle”, pointed out the importance of preventing and managing the growing quantity of waste at the festival as well as in daily life. The activities followed an “infotainment” approach, as factual information was combined with entertaining games and plays, which ensured the curiosity and engagement of festival visitors. Team members involved festival on-lookers in discussions on different types of waste and the importance of recycling. At their booth, the team invited children to participate in a drawing contest about environmental conservation and involved them in question and answer sessions. Adults, too, played several games facilitated by team members. For example, they estimated the weight of three garbage bins which contained the equivalent of garbage produced by a Vientiane citizen in one day, one week and one month. The “step-in-the-garbage-game” illustrated positive and negative behavior regarding consumption and waste disposal. The MCU booth itself was constructed like a shadow theater with a ten-metre-long mural made of light boxes, which helped the team stand out among the loudspeakers and music of other booths at the festival. The light boxes presented ideas to reduce, recycle and reuse waste and showed the separation of household garbage into wet and dry portions. The mural told a story of two communities, one littering waste all over and the other one using good waste management practices. A short drama, presented by MCU members, attracted many people at the festival and made them aware of waste management at the household level.

 An average of about 500 people came to MCU’s booth to join and watch the waste management activities every night, and over 1,000 people saw MCU members walking around That Luang to collect garbage. The activities at the That Luang Festival are part of a well-coordinated multi-year strategy supervised by MoNRE.