MRC Transboundary Dialogue, Issue1

TB dialogue issue 1

14th Aug 2015

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

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Issue 1:  January - June 2015

 

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The four member countries of the Mekong River Commission are now strengthening the region's integrated water resource management (IWRM) practices at the national and sub-national levels through five bilateral pilot projects. These projects aim to address transboundary issues in the management of water and natural resources for the sustainable development and improved livelihoods of the communities within the Mekong River basin.

Among the five projects are a joint communication outreach project for Cambodia's Tonle Sap Lake and Thailand's Songkhla Lake basin, a fishery management project in the Mekong and Sekong Rivers of Cambodia and Lao PDR, and a wetland management project in Laos' Xe Bang Hieng and Thailand's Nam Kam regions. Between Cambodia and Viet Nam, there are two water resource management projects being jointly implemented in the Sesan and Srepok Rivers' sub-basins and the Mekong Delta.


These initiatives were launched in late 2013 through to mid 2014, and are currently undertaking baseline studies to identify common significant water resource management issues, such as flood forecasting and the impacts of climate change, through field assessments and exchange visits, among other activities at each of the pilot sites. These bilateral projects are a component of the MRC’s Mekong Integrated Water Resource Management Project (M-IWRMP) which is funded by the World Bank and receives technical support from the MRC Secretariat. The M-IWRMP is expected to complete the project’s implementation by early 2018.


This e-Newsletter "Transboundary DIALOGUE" showcases the five projects' activities which aim to achieve a better management and development of the common water resources in the region. This first issue covers the period from January to June this year and successive issues will be published every quarter thereafter.

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The Tonle Sap Lake and Songkhla Lake Basins Project, an outreach project over the two sister lakes’ governance in Cambodia and Thailand, organised exchange visits in February and April to learn about their respective community’s lake management activities. It was the project’s first exchange of field visits for the project teams to gain new insights.

During 17-20 February, Cambodia’s Tonle Sap Lake team traveled to the Songkhla Lake basin in southern Thailand to visit several communities to learn how they manage the lake’s water resources and develop their communities in the lake basin. The team visited a community learning center, a birds nest sanctuary and a fisheries working group, and interacted with local people to learn how communities were formed to jointly manage the lake’s natural resources. The team was impressed by the local communities’ level of commitment in protecting the lake basin and implementing integrated water resource management involving various actors in the lake’s management.

In return, Thailand’s Songkhla Lake team visited the Tonle Sap Lake basin from 27 April to 1 May to study water management issues and local communities’ coping mechanisms. The delegation visited a pottery community to see both traditional and modern pottery processes, a conservation zone to learn about environmental issues and a fish market to observe the method of transporting fish to Thailand. The delegation also had the opportunity to present an organic soap making workshop to a local community.

The communities around the two lakes both heavily rely on the lake’s water and natural resources for their livelihoods, and these exchange visits showed how they differently govern and manage these resources for each community’s development.

These two teams are expected to promote IWRM-based lake basin management within their own communities while learning lessons and best practices from each other.

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The wetland management project between Lao PDR and Thailand took the first major step towards its goal of strengthening transboundary cooperation on 20 May, by setting up a joint transboundary working group to share data and exchange lessons learned in resource management.

The joint project team met in Sakon Nakhon in the northeastern Thailand for the first time since the project was launched in November 2013. About 40 participants discussed the structure, objectives and membership of the working group, and also worked on a revision on the project’s implementation plan. During the meeting, the project team agreed to cooperate in the coming months on flood, wetland and irrigation management through the working group, and selected Thailand’s Nong Han and Lao PDR’s Xe Champorn as the sites for exchange visits to study wetland management.

Individuals from the selected sites and the working group are expected to visit each other later this year to study community-based wetland management issues and possible coping mechanisms.

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Representatives of the five transboundary-level projects from the four member countries met in Ho Chi Minh City in late May to assess their stakeholders’ communication needs.

About 30 representatives from the four National Mekong Committees, line agencies and the projects’ working groups participated in a communication workshop which was organised by the MRC’s communication office. The office is responsible for promoting these bilateral transboundary projects and supporting dialogues with their stakeholders at sub-national and community levels. 

The five-project teams assessed their stakeholders for two days in order to analyse their needs and identify appropriate communication approaches through group discussions and participatory plenary sessions.

Following the two-day workshop, the participants embarked on a field trip to the Mekong Delta to see the delta communities and their livelihoods at first hand.  They also met with experts in water resources management at the Can Tho University to learn about climate change and other issues facing to the delta.

An upcoming stakeholder analysis report resulting from the workshop will be used for the promotion of MRC’s IWRM approaches by the project teams.

 

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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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On 2 January, the Cambodian National Mekong Committee (CNMC) and the fishery administration working group for the Mekong-Sekong fisheries management project held an inception workshop in Phnom Penh to introduce the project to key stakeholders.

Nearly 50 participants from relevant line ministries, NGOs, donor agencies and academic institutions pledged to support the project.

On 2 April, CNMC together with the Tonle Sap Authority organised a joint national consultative meeting on the analysis of stakeholders on the Tonle Sap Lake. Sixteen people from line agencies participated in the meeting to discuss the analysis.

On 9 June, various players related to the Tonle Sap Lake’s water management gathered in Pursat to discuss the key challenges facing the lake. The gathering was another national consultation meeting to build partnerships among the relevant actors and international donors. Through the discussions, about 50 participants identified a number of key issues including the loss of biodiversity in the lake, illegal fishing and the impacts of upstream hydropower developments. 

Lao PDR

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On 19 January, the Lao team of the Xe Bang Hieng – Nam Kam wetland management project held a consultation workshop in Savannakhet province to discuss the establishment of a proposed joint working group and the project’s expected outcomes. Nearly 40 people, both from the central and local authorities, participated in the discussions. On the following day, the participants visited the project site in the province’s Xechamphone district to review the district’s wetland management and irrigation development.

On 11 June, the wetland team organised another consultation workshop in a different district of Savannakhet to review the conditions of the project site and to select the target sub river basins for the project’s implementation. Twenty-five people including local stakeholders participated in the workshop. During the following two days, the team examined six sub river basins of the Xechamphone River Basin to assess water utilization as well as flood and drought conditions in the villages concerned.

Thailand

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On 17 February, the Nam Kam working group of the Lao-Thai wetland management project held its sixth workshop to discuss the project’s progress and the proposed joint transboundary working group’s role and structure.

In April, a small group of experts from the Nam Kam working group and two universities held a series of meetings to design a set of data collection tools and processes, organized a workshop to identify needs for training on the data collection tools and methodology, and held preparatory sessions for data collection training.

On 11 May, the Nam Kam team initiated data collection training in all 15 pilot sites in the Nam Kam wetland, starting from the Nong Sang sub district in Nakhon Phanom province.

On 28-29 May, various stakeholders of the Songkhla Lake Basin (SLB) gathered at the Songkhla Rajabhat University to attend the fourth SLB Forum to discuss a wide range of issues facing the lake basin, including women’s empowerment, disaster prevention and post-harvest product improvement. The forum is an initiative of the region’s five universities, including the Prince of Songkhla University which is a member of the Tonle Sap Lake and Songkhla Lake Basin outreach project, and it has been organised annually since 2012. Representatives from the public and private sectors, academia and religious groups as well as school children, fishermen and farmers participated in the event so as to create a knowledge-based community to develop the basin.

Viet Nam

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In June, the national team of the Sesan-Srepok project created a Facebook page to promote its development of a GIS database on water resource management. The online platform displays maps of the upper Sesan-Srepok Rivers in the central highlands of Viet Nam, showing among others annual rainfall, ground water quality as well as flood and drought conditions.

A team of the Mekong Delta project began undertaking the preparatory work for the planned exchange visits of the pilot sites with its Cambodian counterparts during the second quarter of 2015.

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