MRC Transboundary Dialogue, Issue 11

Vientiane, Lao PDR, 19th Jan 2018

IWRMP's quarterly eNewsletter tells stories on the transboundary water resources management initiatives.

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Issue 11: October - December 2017

 Winning Photos Capture Amazing Diversity of the Mekong River

Winning image1

Chau Doc fishing village is where most fish farms are located. It offers unique feature of life and culture of people in the South of Viet Nam. ©Hieu Minh Vu/MRC

When night falls, electric power lights up a renowned fish farm village floating on the Viet Nam’s Cuu Long (Mekong) waterways in the dark, with sparkling lights warmly embracing every family who relies on the Mekong to make a living. It conveys a profound meaning of life on water.

Hien Minh Vu captured this astonishing image of the Mekong and won the first place in the first photo contest organised by the Mekong River Commission (MRC).

“Joining this competition is a great opportunity for me to convey a message to the public that we all need to join hands to protect this beautiful river for people to rely on for food and income,” the delighted awarded-winning photographer said at a ceremony organised at the MRC Secretariat in Vientiane in early December to celebrate the diversity of the Mekong River with the winning images.

Vu’s awarded shot was selected from 165 entries from 42 amateur photographers of the four lower Mekong countries – Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand and Viet Nam – who joined the contest under the theme ‘Mekong Diversity through Your Eyes’ that ran from 7 July to 24 September 2017.

From sweeping landscapes to expressive portraits, the other images in the final 30 have similarly compelling stories depicting rich ecosystems of the Mekong River, various water use and unique livelihoods of riverine communities.

Among them include fishermen risking lives daily to hunt fish, trading on the river, sunset over a friendship bridge connecting Lao PDR and Thailand, a flock of black cormorants and the beauty of flooded forests – all of which represent the diversity of the Mekong basin. Each image evoked a powerful reaction from the judges.

“These images have something special that appeals to the viewers…there are images that change our perceptions and experiences,” Catherine O’Brien, Chair of the contest’s panel, expressed her excitement at the award ceremony.

Organised in conjunction with the exhibition of the top 30 photos, the award ceremony announced 12 winning images to present awards, including cash prizes from $50 to $500 for top 8.

The 12 winning images are featured in the MRC 2018 calendar while top 30 photos are displayed in the MRC Secretariat’s lobby lounge for public viewing until 31 January 2018.

“I am proud to see my photo displayed and get to know many people through this contest. It inspires me to take more photos showing how much the river is related to people’s lives,” said Khankeo Oupravanh, one of the two female winning photographers who got the third place for a picture of a lady waiting for her husband to arrive by boat every evening after selling fish caught from the Mekong River.

The photo contest and exhibition are part of the MRC’s Mekong Integrated Water Resources Management Project, funded by the World Bank, which facilitates cross-border cooperation on water utilization and management among the four lower Mekong countries. It is the first contest the MRC has organised to raise awareness of the importance of transboundary water collaboration for sustainable development of the region.

For those who can’t visit the exhibition in person, an electronic version of the awarded photographs is available here.


   Lao-Thai Wetlands Team Discusses IWRM Tools for Local Water Resources Management

XBKM joint meeting

The Xe Bang Hieng and Nam Kam wetland project team discusses IWRM tools at a workshop in Savannakhet province of Lao PDR. ©LMNC

As part of the efforts to consolidate lessons learned on community-based water management, the Lao and Thai working groups of the Xe Bang Hieng and Nam Kam wetland project recently met to discuss integrated water resources management (IWRM) tools currently applied in local water resources management and identify ways to further mainstream those tools in community-based river basin planning. 

The IWRM tools discussed at the meeting held on 13 December in Savannakhet of Lao PDR include enabling environment that promotes effective water policy and legal framework; clear institutional roles that determine responsibilities of relevant stakeholders - from governments to river basin organisations to water user groups - in managing the resources and setting up institutions; and practical management instruments that support better river basin planning through assessment of current water situation, integrated planning and communications among water use sectors and stakeholders.

“Thailand and Laos will need to select the IWRM tools to fit with their purpose, which will enable them to manage their water resources in integrated ways that promote equitable sharing of water resources while protecting the environment,” said Piriya Uraiwong, MRC’s water resources management specialist.  

The Xe Bang Hieng basin of Lao PDR and Nam Kam basin of Thailand are rich in wetlands resources, including surface water resources and wetlands, which support the livelihoods of local populations. Both basins, meanwhile, face similar challenges threatening the resources such as increasing demand for water utilization and climate change.

Through the MRC-supported wetland project, the two countries have been working together to share knowledge, experience and good practices in managing wetlands resources to maximise economic benefits.

At the meeting, the project team also discussed progress and challenges facing the project’s implementation. They planned to meet again in February to finalise a joint report capturing knowledge and lessons learned on specific IWRM tools that can be applied in future planning and development of the river basins.

The wetland project is one of five bilateral projects financed by the World Bank through the MRC’s Mekong IWRM Project that facilitates multi-sectoral planning and management of water resources through transboundary dialogue. 


 Cambodia-Laos Border Fisheries Management Plan Aimed to Realise a 10% Increase in Fish Stock

River Cambodia

Fisheries and aquatic resources are the back-bone of Cambodia’s and Lao PDR’s rural economy, supporting the livelihoods of millions of people in both countries. ©MRC

Targeting a 10-percent increase in fish abundance in the Mekong and Sekong Rivers by 2021, fisheries experts from Cambodia and Lao PDR shared at a meeting on 20 November the progress in fish monitoring activities that set a baseline, and continued discussions on the formation of a joint fisheries management plan to reach that goal.

In the Mekong – Sekong river basins along the two countries’ border provinces, fish stock is declining year by year due to multiple pressures including exploitative fishing practices, increasing hydro-development and unavoidable climate change. In order to reverse the declining trend, the two countries have been collaborating through a bilateral project to set up a mechanism to jointly manage and preserve fisheries resources along the border to improve livelihoods and regional food security.

At a meeting held in Siem Reap, fisheries experts from the Mekong – Sekong transboundary fisheries management project reported on national activities from the joint fisheries monitoring programme, in which the catch rates, size and type of fish and other vital characteristics of five migratory white fish species are measured and recorded for assessment and analysis. For the last 6-12 months, 12 fishermen from each country who received training logged the vital information of fish resources in the provinces of Champassak and Attapeu in Lao PDR and Stung Treng and Kratie in Cambodia.

The monitoring results are currently being analysed and, once completed, will become a baseline for the long-term joint fisheries management plan under development. The plan is aimed at increasing fish catch rates by 10 percent within four years, by reducing illegal fishing activities in the transboundary conservation pool by 50 percent and eliminating the use of a traditional but illegal fishing gear called Lee Trap in the Khone Falls by 80 percent.

During the meeting, the experts exchanged ideas on the roles and responsibilities of a joint fisheries management body they are aiming to establish, and discussed details of a management plan to reduce illegal fishing activities and illegal gear use. Through discussions, they became increasingly aware that the management body needs to continue the joint monitoring programme to assess the ever-changing situation, set up measures to control illegal fishing activities, share data and activity records, and evaluate the implementation of management activities for improvement.

“We have discussed very important issues today, informing the progress of a fisheries monitoring programme, and the development of a technical coordination group and a fisheries management action plan,” said Te Navuth, Secretary-General of the Cambodian National Mekong Committee, who co-chaired the meeting. “It’s very important for Mekong cooperation because fisheries resources are common resources for not only Cambodia and Lao PDR but also Thailand and Viet Nam. What the project is aiming for is in line with the 1995 Mekong Agreement, and best practices coming out of this project would eventually support the livelihoods of local people in the region.”

To continue the development of the joint management plan, the experts agreed to meet again in February 2018.

The fisheries management project is part of the five bilateral projects under the Mekong Integrated Water Resources Management Project of the Mekong River Commission, which promotes coordinated planning and management of water resources for sustainable development of the Lower Mekong Basin. Funded by the World Bank, the bilateral projects are slated for completion in 2018.


 Sister Lakes to Document Learning Processes for Policy Recommendations

Sister Lakes to Document Learning Processes for Policy Recommendations 2

Members of the Tonle Sap and Songkhla Lake Basins communication outreach project meet in Bangkok, Thailand, to discuss key elements for documenting in a joint paper on community-based resources management. ©MRC

In order to amplify what the sister lakes of Cambodia’s Tonle Sap and Thailand’s Songkhla have learnt on community-based lake governance, the two sides agreed at a meeting on 6 November on how and what to document in two upcoming papers they are preparing for policy development and implementation of better governance of the lakes.

The Tonle Sap and Songkhla Lake Basins communication outreach project, one of the fiver bilateral projects under the Mekong River Commission’s Integrated Water Resources Management Project, has supported the two lakes to learn from each other on community-driven resources management and development of the lakes for the last four years.

The outreach project was financed by the World Bank because exemplary commitment of the Songkhla’s communities in lake management, from disaster preparedness to fisheries conservation to resource-based alternative income generations, could be learned by the Tonle Sap Lake, the most significant lake in the Mekong Basin for its large scale socio-economic implications.

Since the project was launched in October 2013, the two lakes have conducted literature reviews, visited each other to identify major topics they wished to learn about, and filmed common challenges and coping mechanisms on how to preserve fish stocks, empower women with social enterprise, and prepare communities for various phenomenon of climate change.

“Both lakes have learnt a lot from each other through the project’s joint activities, including field visits and participatory video exchange,” said MRC’s IWRM specialist Piriya Uraiwong, who coordinates the implementation of the five bilateral projects, at the meeting in Bangkok. “Now is the time to document all those processes of your learning experiences and make recommendations for future actions and policy making on lake governance.”

The lakes project team is currently preparing two documents, one on the implementation of joint learning activities, and another on recommendations for policy making and actions for community-led management of the lake resources to build healthy lakes.

During the meeting in Bangkok, the team agreed to emphasize the learning process and common findings from the joint learning activities, rather than academic analysis of the lake management issues, and move forward to develop practical recommendations for the respective governments, the lake management authorities, and the communities and other interested parties.

“We have gained new knowledge and discovered similarities and differences in lake management of the two lakes through this project,” said Wat Botkosal, Deputy Secretary General of the Cambodian National Mekong Committee who led the Cambodian delegation to the meeting. “We hope our recommendations will be put on the table for consideration by the two governments to continue bilateral cooperation on the lake management.”

The lakes project is slated for completion by March 2018.


 Ideas for Bilateral Provincial Cooperation Exchanged to Solve Transboundary Water Issues

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Water specialists from Cambodia and Viet Nam meet at a joint workshop in Viet Nam’s Cao Lanh to discuss how the two countries can jointly address water management issues. ©MRC

Joint research and training, hydro-meteorological data exchange and new bilateral working groups between border provinces of Cambodia and Viet Nam are some of the ideas water specialists from the two countries shared during a workshop held in Cao Lanh, Viet Nam, to solve long-standing transboundary water issues.

About 15 specialists joined the workshop held on 27 October to discuss how the two countries could develop better water cooperation at a provincial level to address transboundary water management issues in the Mekong Delta and the Sesan – Srepok river basins. The two countries have engaged in two bilateral water resources management projects in both geographic areas, in order to establish new mechanisms to solve cross-border water issues, in the face of impacts of hydro-development, intensive irrigation and climate change.

“We have made important achievements under the transboundary projects. We now have identified priority issues within Viet Nam and Cambodia, and challenges to share benefits from the Mekong’s valuable resources at the provincial level,” said Director-General of the Vietnamese National Mekong Committee Le Duc Trung during the workshop’s opening remarks. “I encourage both Cambodian and Vietnamese participants to have candid, constructive discussions on potential solutions so that we could report to our respective governments for further considerations.”

The two countries have named six priority issues in the Mekong Delta, including lack of coordinated flood management planning, and another set of six issues as priority for the Sesan – Srepok basin management, including limited hydro-meteorological data and basin-wide assessment of impacts.

The workshop was held to brainstorm ideas on transboundary cooperation schemes at the provincial level to address some of those identified issues, taking into consideration what water specialists observed on the ground during the preceding field visits that took place in the Mekong Delta from 23 to 26 October. They observed various irrigation schemes and massive bank erosions, visited a hydro-station and provincial offices, and met with local water users to discuss further cooperation.

During the workshop, the specialists suggested that existing bilateral dialogue at the provincial level needs to be strengthened with new working groups focusing on shared water issues. They also discussed that sharing of various hydro-meteorological data such as river flow rates, water quality and sediment would help enable more coordinated planning of flood control measures. It was also suggested that the two countries conduct joint studies to address common transboundary issues, which could, for example, help mitigate adverse impacts of hydro-development.

“This workshop was very useful for the two countries to develop further cooperation mechanisms to address the transboundary issues at the provincial level,” said Kol Vathana, Deputy Secretary General of the Cambodian National Mekong Committee, who led the Cambodian delegation. “This is a process to understand the real issues and discuss potential solutions, in particular how to solve transboundary issues so that people on both sides would benefit.”

Results of the workshop will form a basis of a joint action plan for the two countries to expand transboundary cooperation to address specific issues identified for those project sites. Action plans are expected to be created by the end of 2018.

The Mekong Delta and Sesan - Srepok projects are parts of the initiatives under the Mekong River Commission’s Integrated Water Resources Management Project that promotes cross-border cooperation at both basin-wide and sub-basin levels through multi-sectoral planning and coordinated management of water resources. These projects are financed by the World Bank.

Click here for a series of photos from the field visits.


 h national brief

The five bilateral projects are coordinated by each member country’s National Mekong Committee (NMC), which takes an active role in facilitating the work of line agencies and local working groups for the execution of those projects.

Here’s a brief report from the four NMCs.

 Cambodia

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The Mekong-Sekong fisheries project team meets with fishery communities in Stung Treng for data collection on cross-border fisheries issues. ©CNMC

In an effort to address the shared water management issues with Viet Nam, the Cambodian teams of the Mekong Delta and the Sesan - Srepok river basins projects met on 21 December to discuss key elements for the establishment of the national coordination mechanisms for sharing data and information with the Vietnamese counterpart.

They reviewed existing schemes suitable for adapting into a new mechanism framework, types of data to be shared and roles of government bodies at provincial level. The team agreed that governing authority be devolved down from the center to lower levels, which will promote better sharing of information for addressing water issues in a timely manner.

Meanwhile, the Tonle Sap Lake team of the sister-lake communications project on 18 December kicked off a field survey with fishers at Battambang’s Rahasourng village, provincial departments and non-governmental organisations to gather information on their livelihoods and involvement in water governance and planning for the development of a joint report with the Thai counterpart.

In addition, from 15-18 November, the working group of the Mekong-Sekong fisheries project, in partnership with the Inland Fisheries Research and Development Institute and the Fisheries Administration, held a series of discussions with provincial government agencies, local authorities and fishery communities in Stung Treng province to collect data on existing rules and regulations on transboundary fisheries management in the Mekong-Sekong river basins, identify constraints hindering cooperation with Lao PDR and discuss possible solutions. This is part of the preparation of the joint coordination mechanisms for managing fisheries resources in selected provinces bordering with Lao PDR.

Lao PDR

XBH Lao

Working group of the Mak Mee reservoir attend training on IWRM tools in Savannakhet province. ©LNMC

The Lao team of the Xe Bang Hieng-Nam Kam wetlands project on 11 December opened a two-day capacity building workshop on IWRM tools for 30 members from the Mak Mee reservoir’s working group in Savannakhet province.

The training strengthened their understanding on policies and legal framework, institutional roles and responsibility of relevant stakeholders and management instruments for local water resources management.

Meanwhile, on 10 October, the Mekong-Sekong fisheries project team met with local authorities and communities’ representatives in Attapeu province to discuss a draft guideline for the development of fisheries management plan. They also exchanged views and lessons on fisheries management and fish conservation zones. 

Thailand

XBH data workshop Thai

The Xe Bang Hieng and Nam Kam wetland project team meets at workshop to analyse and integrate data on fisheries resources into provincial development plan. ©TNMC

Following a series of workshops to analyse data and information on fisheries resources for updating the fisheries database, the Xe Bang Hieng-Nam Kam wetlands project team on 28 November organised a workshop to integrate the collected data into relevant development plans of provincial agencies by applying IWRM tools such as GIS for presenting project’s locations and interpreting information.

In addition, the team on 12 October held a meeting with the working group to review project’s achievements, progress and remaining activities to be carried out. The meeting was attended by 40 participants in Sakon Nakhon province.

Also in October, the climate change adaptation working group of the Songkhla-Tonle Sap lakes project organised a youth camp for 48 youths from Phattalung province, which lies within the Songkhla Lake Basin. The group visited flood-prone areas in Kuan Kreng wetland where they learned about bio-diversified ecosystem and climate change issues.

They were trained to produce video stories by using smartphones to convey messages related to climate change and natural resources preservation. The youth camp is part of the training workshops aimed at strengthening youth’s capacity in producing and disseminating news and information on lake management to the public.

Viet Nam

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Members of the Mekong Delta and the Sesan-Srepok river basins projects meet with provincial authorities in late December in Ho Chi Minh. ©VNMC

The Vietnamese teams of the Mekong Delta and the Sesan-Srepok river basins projects from 26 to 29 December held back-to-back consultation workshops on the joint coordination mechanisms for water resources management in the concerned areas of Cambodia and Viet Nam with relevant stakeholders from provincial departments of agriculture, natural resources, construction and transportation, and hydropower plants.

Held in Ho Chi Minh City, the workshops discussed mechanisms for sharing information and data on water flows proposed by national experts, in consultation with local authorities and communities.  

The consultations followed a series of working sessions organised between October and November in various provinces of the delta for local, provincial and national stakeholders to review the current transboundary cooperation mechanisms between Cambodia and Viet Nam in the Mekong Delta and Sesan-Srepok river basins, and discuss new cooperation approaches proposed for the joint coordination mechanisms.

Recommendations from participants were consolidated for further improvement of the joint coordination papers.

In addition, on 17 November, the teams met with provincial authorities from relevant departments to debrief water management issues observed during the joint Mekong Delta field trips between Cambodia and Viet Nam conducted in late October. They also discussed data and information sharing mechanisms proposed by the Cambodian counterpart.

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