MRC Transboundary Dialogue, Issue 8
21st Apr 2017
Issue 8: January - April 2017
To promote better understanding of its procedural rules on water diplomacy, the Mekong River Commission (MRC) has published a brochure on the Procedures for Notification, Prior Consultation and Agreement, known as PNPCA.
PNPCA is one of the five procedural rules at the heart of the MRC mandate, aimed at promoting water cooperation among the four member countries of Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand and Viet Nam. Under the PNPCA, any projects using water from the Mekong basin, including large-scale irrigation and hydropower, must undergo either one of the three processes to prevent possible adverse transboundary impacts on riverine communities and the upstream and downstream environment.
Communication of the PNPCA processes requires effective dissemination tools.
With support from the World Bank, the PNPCA brochure has been printed in the four riparian languages, on top of the English version. Using plain languages and visual aids, it describes what PNPCA is about, how it is applied, and how the processes take place.
“It is the first time for the MRC’s member countries and other interested stakeholders to have a simplified form of the PNPCA,” said An Pich Hatda, MRC’s Director of Planning Division. “It provides key information of the complex rules in an easily digestible manner for those who want to better understand how the procedures support regional cooperation on water use.”
More than 1,000 brochures have been disseminated to different stakeholders at both regional and national levels. Online editions are available on the MRC website.
Other knowledge products to be produced in English and riparian languages include the MRC’s procedural rules on water quality, data sharing and water flow maintenance.
The MRC has so far facilitated discussions on two hydropower projects on the Mekong mainstream – Xayaburi and Don Sahong– through the PNPCA. It is now carrying out the Prior Consultation process for the Pak Beng hydropower project.
Representatives from MRC’s member countries attend a management support meeting for five transboundary projects, organised by the MRC Secretariat in Vientiane, Lao PDR, from 6-8 February 2017. @MRC/Sothea Ros
Officials from the National Mekong Committees of Lao PDR, Thailand and Viet Nam met at a management support meeting in Vientiane, Lao PDR, from 6 to 8 February, to review implementation progress of five bilateral projects aimed at improving water resources management in the Lower Mekong Basin. Cambodia joined the meeting through a video conference.
Organised by the MRC Secretariat, the three-day meeting discussed the status of the projects, including major milestones and achievements, budget utilisation, and challenges. It also deliberated on the way forward and action plans to be implemented in 2017.
“The meeting provides an opportunity to ensure that the implementation progress meets with the agreed intermediate results and to identify areas of concern and issues that require technical support from the MRC Secretariat,” said Piriya Uraiwong, MRC’s Specialist for the Mekong-Integrated Water Resources Management Project (M-IWRMP).
Funded by the World Bank under the MRC’s M-IWRMP, the five projects include fisheries management, water resources management, wetland and floodplain management, and communication outreach projects. These projects have been implemented by the four lower Mekong countries on a bilateral basis since 2013 and 2014 to address transboundary challenges for better management of water and related resources and improved livelihoods.
Fisheries specialists from Cambodia and Lao PDR meet from 13-14 February 2017 in Siem Reap, Cambodia, for the preparation of a joint fisheries management plan that aims to rebuild inland fish resources in the Mekong and Sekong Rivers. @MRC/Sothea Ros
Efforts to rebuild freshwater fish populations in the Mekong and Sekong River Basins are underway with plans in place to establish a joint fisheries management plan between Cambodia and Lao PDR.
As a part of the efforts, fisheries specialists from the two member countries of MRC met in Siem Reap for two days from 13 February to discuss steps for preparing the joint plan for managing five fish species that migrate long distances to both rivers, are valuable for food security, and remain commercially important to both countries.
At the joint management planning meeting, organised under the MRC’s Transboundary Fisheries Management on the Mekong and Sekong Rivers Project, the two teams discussed core elements of the management plan, including management measures for each fish species.
Both countries will further develop and refine the draft plan through consultation workshops at national and local levels to assess takeholders’ views and needs.
“The joint management plan brings the two countries together to better manage our fisheries which will contribute to an increase of fish populations,” said Chanthachith Amphaychith, Deputy Director General of the Lao National Mekong Committee.
The five whitefish species, considered representative of the health of the freshwater fisheries system in the Mekong and Sekong rivers, include Pangasius larnaudiei, Pangasius conchophilus, Cirrhinus microlepis, Mekongina erythrospila, and Helicophagus waandersi.
Fisheries experts from Cambodia and Lao PDR said during the meeting that the current catch of these species is dominated by small and medium sized fish, with a notable reduction in large sized fish in the catch.
The experts cited over-fishing, illegal gear use, and habitat degradation as major threats to these freshwater fish species. The project has identified other issues that put pressure on fishery resources such as limited fisheries data and information and limited capacity and resources for fisheries management, and challenges in implementing the existing joint management mechanism.
“Through the joint management plan, we hope we can address these constraints and rebuild populations of these fish species, which will support food security, provide increased recreational fishing opportunities and bring back fresh fish resources in the Mekong and Sekong rivers,” said Chheng Phen, Acting Director of Cambodia’s Inland Fisheries Research and Development Institute of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.
In addition to the joint fisheries management plan, the teams also moved towards identifying an appropriate joint coordination mechanism, including establishment of a joint fisheries management body to implement an action plan. The two countries will review existing transboundary coordination mechanisms and determine national data and information needs for the development of a joint mechanism paper.
The teams planned to meet again in May to further develop these initiatives.
GIS maps for Lao PDR’s Mak Mee and Thailand’s Nong Han wetlands produced by the project teams during a training workshop on GIS mapping from 21 to 22 March 2017, in Savannakhet, Lao PDR. @Thai and Lao National Mekong Committees.
More than 20 participants from the Lao and Thai National Mekong Committees and line government agencies joined a two-day training workshop on geographic information system (GIS) mapping, from 21 to 22 March, in Savannakhet province of Southern Lao PDR.
The training, organised under the MRC-supported Xe Bang Hieng and Nam Kam Wetland Management Project, provided the technical working groups with tools and skills to prepare data and information in a GIS format to support water resources and wetland management and planning in the project’s targeted areas.
During the workshop, the project teams have identified three villages in Savannakhet’s Mak Mee wetland in Lao PDR and 15 areas in Thailand’s Nong Han wetland for data collection and GIS mapping. They also produced two GIS maps for the Mak Mee and Nong Han wetlands.
The GIS maps present key data, formulated from the questionnaires designed by the working group, including on population, land use and wetland boundary. It will support the development of the Mak Mee wetland management strategic plan and the Nong Han wetland management action plan.
The Xe Bang Hieng and Nam Kam wetland management project is promoting sharing of information and knowledge and enhancing expertise on the IWRM tools to support river basin planning, flood management, and sustainable irrigation development.
Local residents attend a community video screening in Songkhla Lake Basin, Thailand, on 16 March 2017. Produced by the project teams of the Tonle Sap – Songkhla Lake Basins Communication Outreach Project, the videos capture the role of youth in promoting climate change adaptation measures, sustainable fisheries, and women’s role in natural disaster preparedness. @MRC/Anouvong Manivong
Officials and community people from Cambodia’s Tonle Sap and Thailand’s Songkhla Lake Basin have deepened their understanding of challenges and coping strategies in lake management, thanks to a participatory video exchange initiative initiated by the MRC-supported lakes communication outreach project.
Under this new initiative, launched in November 2016, a second joint video exchange workshop was organised from 14 to 17 March in Songkhla to promote knowledge sharing on healthy lake governance between the two lakes.
During the workshop, more than 20 participants brushed up their filming skills and shot video stories of water and related resources management in Songkhla. One of the videos captured a success story of a community-based fish conservation zone that has helped restore fish populations, leading to better fish catches and improved livelihoods for 260 families in Ban Chong Feun village.
“I am very impressed with the achievements made by the conservation zone,” said Hor Sam Ath, Deputy Chief of Rohalsoung Sde Krom Fisheries Community from Cambodia’s Tonle Sap, who joined the filming workshop.
Located in the middle part of the Songkhla Lake, about 920 km south of Bangkok, the 3-kilometer-wide fish conservation zone has been jointly established and managed by Ban Chong Feun villagers since 1991.
It is dedicated to the family-scale fishing community where illegal fishing gears are strictly prohibited. The community has marked fishing and non-fishing zones and releases 15 kinds of fish and shrimp species into the lake four times a year. These efforts have brought positive results to the community.
“It inspires me to do more for the benefits of my community. I will reach out to community people and government agencies for better collaboration and management of our fish conservation area to rebuild our fisheries resources,” Sam Ath said.
In addition, the project teams produced two other videos on the role of youth in promoting climate change adaptation measures, and women’s role in natural disaster preparedness.
While women and youth play active roles as advocates for addressing these issues in Songkhla, the Cambodian team said there is limited participation from these two groups in Cambodia’s Tonle Sap. This joint learning has motivated them to take more action.
“We will advocate to get more youth and women involved in managing our water and related resources,” said Sin Viseth, Director of Department of Exploitation and Conservation Control of Cambodia’s Tonle Sap Authority.
To promote sharing of and discussion on issues captured by the videos, a community video screening was organised in Phathalung province.
Participants said the videos helped them gain a deeper understanding of challenges facing their communities and how they are addressed. They hope to learn more about local livelihoods and development in Cambodia and Thailand.
In November last year, the sister-lake project organised the first video exchange workshop in Cambodia where the project teams produced four videos on lake management issues in Tonle Sap. The teams will translate and exchange all videos for public screening in both lakes.
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.
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.
The Cambodian working groups of the Mekong Delta and Sesan-Srepok transboundary projects in late February kicked off data collection at the sub national level in Stung Treng, Ratanaki and Mondulkiri provinces located in the Sesan-Srepok sub-basins, and the Mekong Delta’s provinces of Kandal, Takeo and Prey Veng. The data collection aimed to identify coordination mechanisms needed to address transboundary water management issues between Cambodia and Viet Nam. The data will be used as input for preparation of a national coordination mechanism paper for each project.
In addition, a sub-national consultation workshop was organised in early March to assess issues facing the existing coordination mechanisms and identify possible solutions for better management of water and related resources in the Mekong Delta.
Meanwhile, the Tonle Sap-Songkhla lakes communication outreach project on 7 March organised a capacity building workshop to promote understanding of the integrated water resources management (IWRM) approaches for healthy lake governance, in Pursat, Cambodia. Thirty-five participants representing national, provincial and community levels from the Tonle Sap Lake discussed issues affecting the management of Tonle Sap and IWRM-based tools to address those issues.
In addition, the project team earlier organised a public awareness event on the importance of natural resources, fisheries law and regulations, and lake management structure. It was attended by 170 people from Tonle Sap’s Sdei Krom village of Tonle Sap.
Project team and local authorities meet on 23 January 2017 in Sovannakhet, Lao PDR. @Lao National Mekong Committee/Thilaphone Phoumma
The Laotian working group from the Xe Bang Hieng – Nam Kam wetlands project and local authorities in late January agreed to establish a steering committee for better management of the Mak Mee wetland located in Sovannakhet province of Lao PDR. The committee will work with Champhone District’s Office of Natural Resources and Environment to develop rules and regulations to manage the wetland area, which provides rich ecosystems to support local livelihoods. The team will meet again in late April to discuss core components of the rules and regulations.
Participants attend data and information analysis workshop on 25 January 2017 in Nakhon Phanom, Thailand. @Thai National Mekong Committee/Uraiwan Mulmaugsan
The Thai team of the Xe Bang Hieng – Nam Kam wetlands project from late January to late March organised a series of workshops on data and information analysis at six pilot sites in Thailand’s Nakhon Phanom and Sakon Nakhon provinces. Attended by 300 participants altogether, the workshops analysed data on fisheries resources and assessed risk factors related to the management of the resources. The workshops also enhanced the capacity of the sub-district working group members to apply information for updating the fisheries database.
Meanwhile, the fisheries working group of the Tonle Sap-Songkhla project, in collaboration with local schools and research institutes, in early January, released four million of giant freshwater prawns and fish species into the Tahin aquatic fauna conservation zone of the Songkhla Lake. The team releases fish species five times per year, contributing to the increase of fish stock in the lake and the improvement of livelihoods.
In addition, with support from the Taksin University, the Chong Fuen women working group for fisheries organised a workshop in Phathalung to boost households’ income through increased production of fishery products. Twenty-five villagers from Ban Chong Fuen learned how to make organic shrimp chips from Songkhla’s yellow shrimps.
Project teams meet with line government agencies in February 2017 to discuss data and information needed for addressing transboundary water resources management issues. @Vietnam National Mekong Committee/Vu Minh Thien
The Vietnamese teams of the Sesan-Srepok sub-basins and the Mekong Delta water resources management projects in February met with government agencies and research institutes in Ha Noi and Ho Chi Minh cities and some provinces to collect data and information needed for the development of coordination mechanisms aimed at addressing joint transboundary water management issues between Cambodia and Viet Nam. The data and information collection was conducted based on questionnaires jointly developed by the National Mekong Committees of Cambodia and Viet Nam, with support from the MRC Secretariat.
In addition, the project teams also reviewed existing coordination mechanisms, both at national and provincial levels, for improving cooperation between Viet Nam and Cambodia on water resources management in the projects’ targeted areas and beyond.