Vientiane, Lao PDR, 12th Jan 2010
The Mekong River Commission (MRC) and Government of Lao PDR have agreed to establish a site for demonstrating best practice in dealing with the potential impacts of climate change on Lao agriculture and rural life.
A site has been chosen in Savannakhet, where the MRC's Climate Change and Adaptation Initiative (CCAI) will work with local farmers to assess how they may be affected by projected changes to the climate in coming years and test out measures to adapt to these changes, particularly in relation to awareness raising and training for villagers and improving water supply.
The MRC says that the Mekong region is one of the most vulnerable in the world to the long term impacts of Climate Change, due to a relatively high proportion of people living on low incomes and regional low government capacity to deal with the issue.
"Like other areas of the Lower Mekong Basin, people in Savannakhet are facing climate risks" said Mr. Synouan Sihalath, Head of the Office of Water Resources and Environment Agency, Savannakhet province. "Savannakhet is highly vulnerable to flood and drought. Agricultural areas are affected by climate risks" he added.
"The demonstration site activities in the four Lower Mekong Basin countries will benefit the communities directly and provide lessons learned for up-scaling or replicating." said Dr. Pornsook Chongprasith, Director of Environment Division at the MRC, which also intends to develop similar sites in Thailand, Cambodia, and Viet Nam.
Although no-one knows exactly how rising world temperatures will impact on the basin, the MRC says that according to global climate modelling that has been downscaled to basin level, a change in rainfall patterns, which could increase the risk of flooding in some areas; an increase in the number and severity of extreme weather events; an increased risk of extremes of hot and cold in different parts of the basin, increasing the risk of drought; and changes in the flow of the river and tributaries, which could influence fish migration patterns, run-off and alluvial deposits are all likely scenarios and will have serious consequences for Lao farmers. In other parts of the basin, sea level rises of up to one metre are predicted, making the Mekong Delta one of the five most vulnerable deltas in the world and the MRC says that this could cause significant displacement of people and migration into urban areas.
On 22-24 December, 2009, in Savannakhet, the Water Resources and Environment Research Institute and Water Resources and Environmental Agency (WREA) and the Mekong River Commission Secretariat (MRCS) organized a National Consultation Meeting on Climate Change and Adaptation Initiative (CCAI) focusing on "Local Demonstration Site Activities" Approximately 35 participants from relevant line agencies at central, provincial, district, and village levels participated in the meeting.
The meeting provided an opportunity for the participants to visit the candidate villages, to obtain some preliminary relevant information. As a result, Kengkok Neua, Nakathang and Taleo villages of Champhone district were selected as demonstration sites.
The MRC is responsible for cooperation on the sustainable management of the Mekong Basin. In dealing with these challenges, it looks across all sectors including sustaining fisheries, identifying opportunities for agriculture, maintaining the freedom of navigation, flood management and preserving important ecosystems. Superimposed on these are the future effects of more extreme floods, prolonged drought and sea level rise associated with climate change. In providing its advice, the MRC aims to facilitate a broad range of dialogue among governments, the private sector and civil society on these challenges.
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