Integrated planning approaches in large and complex river basins can help ensure effective management and equitable use of water and related resources. This is very relevant for the Mekong River Basin and is a reason why Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) is a cornerstone of the MRC’s approach to managing planning on a basin-wide scale.
The MRC’s Mekong IWRM Project follows the IWRM approach with the aim to institutionalise its principles across the MRC in a coordinated way that proactively involves all Divisions as well as relevant national authorities.
IWRM promotes the coordinated development and management of water, land, and related resources in a way that maximises economic and social welfare without compromising the sustainability of vital ecosystems. This general definition of IWRM needs to be adapted to the specific needs and significant water management issues of respective river basins, as in the case of the Mekong River.
The Mekong Integrated Water Resources Project builds on 15 years of MRC achievements, particularly the Water Utilisation Project (WUP), which operated from 2000 to 2008. The Project developed important tools for integrated basin-wide management that include MRC Procedures and Technical Guidelines as well as respective models to implement the 1995 Mekong Agreement.
The Mekong IWRM Project directly supports the MRC’s strategic directions for 2016 to 2020, which assists Member Countries with implementing IWRM approaches in national water resources management and related sectors to support sustainable and equitable regional development on the basin-wide scale. It also supports and feeds into the IWRM Basin Development Strategy 2016-2020.
The Project has technically facilitated the first-ever implementation of the prior consultation process of the Procedures for Notification, Prior Consultation and Agreement (PNPCA). This process stipulates that prior consultation between all Member Countries is required for any development project proposed for the Mekong mainstream. Regarding the submission of the proposed Xayaburi mainstream hydropower project, M-IWRMP technically coordinated the MRCS PNPCA Task Group and the development of the MRCS Prior Consultation Review Report.
To assist Member Countries with improved water resources management, the project works towards the practical implementation of the MRC’s Procedures and Guidelines. The project implements the organisation’s procedures and guidelines through a three-tiered approach, which combines the regional (basin-wide), transboundary and national levels.
Cooperation, communication, and a reciprocal exchange of knowledge between all three levels are the project’s key approach to implementing effective IWRM.
At the regional level, the Project addresses the basin-wide scale and respective issues regarding joint IWRM planning and development through the MRC advisory and facilitation platform between all Lower Mekong Basin countries. The transboundary level is strategically applied and focuses on bi-and multilateral cooperation between the MRC Member Countries and cross-country projects that are facilitated through the MRC Secretariat. Such projects include, for example, transboundary fisheries management. The Project also addresses gaps at the national level, where help in implementation is needed in national water resources management to anchor IWRM approaches and merge them with the basin-wide approaches.
A key characteristic of IWRM is that all activities are inter-linked. All approaches should contribute to each other, working towards improved IWRM coordination. Member Countries play a crucial role in the success of IWRM as they implement the integrated procedures through their relevant authorities, mechanisms and structures.
The project equally addresses issues that ensure the success of putting IWRM into practice. This includes national-level capacity building, establishment of environmental baselines, and encouraging the involvement of the upstream MRC Dialogue Partners.
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For detailed information on the structure and components of the Project, review the Mekong Integrated Water Resources Management Project Document.
For more information about IWRM in the Mekong River Basin visit the Mekong IWRMP Transboundary Projects.