Supporting the Mekong River Commission with Transboundary Water Management in the Mekong River Basin

Project description

Title: Supporting the Mekong River Commission with Transboundary Water Management in the Mekong River Basin
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Country: Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam
Lead executing agency: Mekong River Commission (MRC)
Duration: 2016-2018

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Context

The Lower Mekong Basin is crucial to the livelihood of its more than 60 million inhabitants. Over two thirds of this population (including parts of Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam) live directly from agriculture and fisheries, and are therefore wholly dependent on the Mekong’s water resources. For those who live directly on its banks, the river holds great economic significance, as it is generally expected to secure their food base. Furthermore, with its potential for transport, tourism and energy, the river forms the basis for socioeconomic development in all the riparian states (those territories through which the river flows).

However, the Mekong Basin faces numerous challenges that threaten the sustainable development of the region. Population growth places ever-increasing pressure on the river’s resources, especially through the ongoing expansion of hydropower, logging, intensified agriculture and the extraction of mineral resources. Moreover, the Mekong region is hugely vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, and is already suffering the effects. Today, the regular occurrence of floods has drastically increased the vulnerability of people living alongside the river, and this is set to worsen.

In 1995, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam established the Mekong River Commission (MRC) as a means of collectively addressing the development problems of the Lower Mekong Basin. Since then, the Commission has done much to improve the sustainable management of the water resource. Faced by the intensifying and newly emerging challenges, the capacity of the MRC to do its job is constantly being called into question. Is it capable of addressing the core problems in the river basin effectively and competently, especially with regard to climate change and hydropower development?

Objective

GIZ supports MRC in the development of common strategies and guidelines on sustainable hydropower development and climate change adaptation through technical and organisational advisory measures, human capacity development and regional networking. The programme’s three fields of action are:

advising on new cooperation mechanisms between the MRC and member states;

better implementation of MRC guidelines and instruments at the national level;

strengthening the MRC’s capacities in public water diplomacy and formulating benefit sharing mechanisms (BSM).

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Approach

GIZ supports MRC in the development of common strategies and guidelines on sustainable hydropower development and climate change adaptation through technical and organisational advisory measures, human capacity development and regional networking. The programme’s three fields of action are:

  • advising on new cooperation mechanisms between the MRC and member states;
  • better implementation of MRC guidelines and instruments at the national level;
  • strengthening the MRC’s capacities in public water diplomacy and formulating benefit sharing mechanisms (BSM).

Results

MRC has developed and disseminated a range of studies, tools and guidelines that support the sustainable development of hydropower in Member Countries and emphasised early consideration and avoidance/mitigation of environmental impacts on the broad scale of the basin. Extensive capacity development helped raise understanding and awareness among line agencies, project developers and consultants as well as academic and civil society stakeholders. Some of the guidelines developed have also technically supported the three previous transboundary dialogue processes over hydropower projects on the Mekong mainstream under the MRC’s Procedure for Notification, Prior Consultation and Agreement (PNPCA). These dialogues led to adjusted, potentially less harmful project designs and further consultation processes have evolved and improved considerably throughout the course of the project, allowing for ongoing monitoring and stakeholder involvement.

Lecturers from over 30 universities in Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam have developed and used basic and advanced training modules through the newly established network on sustainable hydropower in the Mekong region. They are being used to expand university curricula and for the further training of employees in the hydropower sector. Regional and national trainings given by newly trained regional experts have already been implemented, curricula are being developed.

Climate change projections have been analysed and agreed on by the countries. Based on analysis and projections agreed upon by the member countries, basin-wide assessments of climate change impacts on water and water-related resources (hydrology, flood, drought, ecosystems, food security, socio-economics and hydropower) have been carried out. Specific methodologies (physically based modelling as well as expert knowledge based) have been developed for each of these assessments. The assessments are spatially explicit and compare three situations: “business as usual situation”, “situation under climate change scenarios” and “situation under climate change and development scenarios”. Besides, indicators to monitor climate and adaptation to climate change in the region have been developed and consolidated in an institutionalised climate change adaptation monitoring system. These different inputs – which provide scientifically based evidence regarding the climate-induced risks in the region – were developed with the strong involvement of national experts and policy makers from the four member countries.

On the policy level, national and regional climate change adaptation strategies and plans have been reviewed and have demonstrated the added value of developing a regional adaptation strategy for the Lower Mekong Basin.

Based on the scientific inputs and policy analysis, the Mekong Adaptation Strategy and Action Plan (MASAP) has been developed through a highly participative process and was formally adopted by MRC Council in December 2017.