Transboundary Water Cooperation in the Lower Mekong Basin

Project description

Title: Transboundary Water Cooperation in the Lower Mekong Basin
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Country: Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Viet Nam
Lead executing agency: Mekong River Commission (MRC)
Overall term: 2019 to 2021



Over 40 million people in the Lower Mekong Basin depend on its water resources to ensure their livelihoods, through fisheries and agriculture. The Mekong River is also of great economic significance in terms of transport, tourism and energy. 

But the Mekong is under threat. Rapid economic and demographic growth are increasing pressure on water resources; as the demand for food, energy and manufactured goods is rising. Moreover, climate change is exacerbating these pressures. Studies confirm that fish stocks are in decline, biodiversity is decreasing, severe flooding is occurring more often and the Mekong Delta is sinking due to the rising seas. 

Ultimately, the sustainable development of water resources in the Mekong Basin will require finding a better balance between economic, social and environmental interests. Given the transboundary nature of the Mekong Basin shared between six countries, such balance can only be achieved through cooperation, as the actions of one country impact the other countries downstream.


Cooperation between riparian countries of the Lower Mekong Basin with the support from the Mekong River Commission (MRC) has been strengthened.


The project is based on a “push and pull” approach, advising MRC with the development of strategic instruments at the regional level and supporting Member Countries with the application of these instruments at the local level, through the implementation of joint initiatives. The project aims to achieve the following outputs:

  • Implementation of the MRC Strategic Plan
  • Piloting of joint environmental monitoring on mainstream dams
  • Coordination of flood and drought management between Cambodia and Thailand


With support from Germany, MRC has contributed to improving the knowledge base on water resources, developing a shared vision for the basin, making the MRC a more efficient organisation and improving the cooperation mechanisms between member countries. MRC is now on its way to becoming a world leading organisation in the field of transboundary water cooperation, receiving increasing political and financial support. More recently, MRC has achieved the following:

  • Undertaken an in-depth review of the Strategic Plan 2016-2020;
  • Drafted a comprehensive guideline on the joint environmental monitoring of mainstream dams; 
  • Identified joint actions to promote cross border cooperation between Laos and Thailand on the management of shared water resources; 
  • Identified priority mitigation measures to jointly manage floods and droughts at the border area between Cambodia and Thailand.