22nd Jan 2016
IWRMP's quarterly eNewsletter tells stories on the transboundary water resources management initiatives.
Representatives of the donors, four member countries and various programmes of the Mekong River Commission working on the Mekong-Integrated Water Resources Management Project reaffirmed on 8 December their commitment to the continuation of the project under the upcoming new 2016-2020 strategic plan.
The reaffirmation came at the final project steering committee meeting under the MRC’s 2011-2015 strategic plan in Bangkok where about 30 participants reviewed the progress to date and discussed the way forward to continue the project under the new strategic plan with a new organisational structure.
“The MRC will move to a new structure starting on 1 January 2016. There will be only four core functions, but the work of M-IWRMP will continue into 2018 with ongoing activities,” Truong Hon Tien, then Officer-in-Charge of the MRC Secretariat, said during the meeting.
M-IWRMP is a cross-cutting water management project working with many of the MRC’s 11 programmes/initiatives under the 2011-2015 strategic plan. It is designed to strengthen the integrated management of water resources in the lower Mekong River Basin based on the MRC’s water use procedures, research-based knowledge and technical tools for coordinated management. The project has been carried out at the regional, transboundary and national levels.
The Australian government has financed the regional component of strengthening the implementation of the MRC’s five procedures of water use in the region until the end of 2015, and the World Bank supports mainly the transboundary component where the five bilateral pilot projects of water resource management issues are implemented by the four member countries up until early 2018. Under the new structure in the new strategic cycle, there will be no more “M-IWRMP” per se, but the implementation of the five procedures would be carried out as one of the major functions of the MRC while the transboundary projects by the member countries will continue to be coordinated by the MRC Secretariat.
The steering committee is an oversight entity that has monitored the implementation of the M-IWRMP and provided guidance for the last four years.
"Thank you to the committee for its contribution, comments and discussion to improve the management of M-IWRMP. It is hoped that the committee has contributed to solving problems that have been discussed and experienced during the life of the project," said Nuanlaor Wongpinitwarodom of the Thai National Mekong Committee who chaired the final meeting.
Prior to the steering committee meeting, the M-IWRMP held on 30 November the last project coordination meeting with coordinators of various MRC programmes as well as national coordinators from the four member countries involved in the project.
During the meeting, the coordinators reported summary progress of each programme and bilateral project and discussed key issues and challenges before reviewing a report from the World Bank’s recent mission to assess the project status. The coordinators were requested to prepare a report for the bank’s upcoming mid-term appraisal scheduled from December to January.
Local authorities and community leaders of the two wetlands in Lao PDR and Thailand along the Mekong River visited each other in October and December to share their experiences in wetland management, as part of the main learning activities of the Xe Bang Hieng – Nam Kam Wetlands Management Project.
From 14 to 16 October, the Lao team of Xe Champhone in the Xe Bang Hieng basin traveled to Nong Han, a lake area within the Nam Kam basin, where the Laos were taken to a fauna and flora conservation area, a waste water management treatment plant and a university’s research center among others to learn how the Thai counterparts operate those facilities and solve water management issues.
During the October visit, for example, the Lao team learned from a Thai fishery biologist how the Nong Han community solved the issue of water flow from the lake over competing demands. He said it took the community many discussions and consultations with all those who rely on the lake’s water for agriculture, fisheries, water supply, drainage and tourism as each of these sectors has different needs for lake water.
In return, the Thai team visited the Lao side from 23 to 25 December to tour a natural resource conservation area, irrigation sites and fish sanctuaries to see first-hand how the people in Xe Champhone manage their wetland. Champhone is a large rice producing region and a site recognized as one of the wetlands under the Ramsar Convention for its unique habitat and species. Traditional management systems such as sacred areas and local taboos are believed to play an important role in the protection of these resources.
During the exchange, both teams filled out questionnaires to record their observations on differences and similarities in management issues and solutions. These findings will form later a joint paper.
The wetland management project is aimed at strengthening the dialogue between the two wetlands on integrated water resources management (IWRM) issues. The two wetlands have set up six focus areas of learning including water resource management, natural resource utilization and data exchange.
Two projects teams of Cambodia and Viet Nam over the Sesan-Srepok Rivers and the Mekong Delta held discussions in late October on their individual national water resource management issues in an effort to develop a coordination mechanism to address common issues and data sharing needs.
The discussions took place in Phnom Penh at a workshop organized by the World Bank, aiming at reviewing the implementation status of both the Sesan-Srepok and the Mekong Delta projects and refining the project designs to align with the related national projects.
During the workshop, the Sesan – Srepok teams reported that impacts of the hydropower development and sand mining activities on the upper stream of the rivers are some of the major issues. The Mekong Delta teams, meanwhile, discussed that the impacts of development including hydropower dams and climate change would be their priorities to address.
Water governance experts from the bank facilitated the discussions and emphasized the importance of thinking about a mechanism for continuing transboundary dialogue beyond the life of the projects.
The two projects will continue discussions and draft a joint paper on the common water management issues in coming months.
A management team of Cambodia’s Tonle Sap Lake project visited on 13 November three communities of its counterpart, Thailand’s Songkhla Lake, to learn how each of the three pilot sites runs community initiatives to manage lake-basin issues.
The field visit took place following a workshop in Hat Yai organized by the Mekong River Commission's support team to improve community outreach and peer-to-peer learning opportunities for the two lakes communication outreach project under the World Bank-funded transboundary cooperation. The project is aimed at increasing dialogue within the pilot communities and between the two lakes.
During the field trip, the visitors first met a woman leader of the community empowerment site in Thahin where a group of women leads the production and marketing of fine local natural resource-based products under Thailand’s "One Tambon (Sub-district), One Product" development scheme. With a success in the products development and marketing, the group has expanded its activities, establishing a community-based natural disaster prevention network with simple walkie-talkies and a computer access to the national metrology forecasting system as well as forming a fishermen’s network to develop community fisheries regulations, among other community-based initiatives.
At a fisheries conservation site of Chongfuen, the visitors learned how the area’s fishing villages have set up and run a lake conservation association to protect local fish species over the last decades and developed a community education project on the preservation of their fishing village. In Thale Noi, a climate change adaptation site, people in the community shared their efforts to promote environmentally friendly way of life in the hope of mitigating rapid climate change.
Following the workshop and inspirational field visit, the two lakes teams are now refining their action plans to connect people of the two lakes to share their experiences.
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.
During the last quarter of 2015, the national team of the communication outreach project for the Tonle Sap and Songkhla Lakes made progress on the development of an atlas on the lake with a series of meetings to design a training session for the relevant officials. The team also identified two potential pilot sites on fisheries conservation in Battambang and Pursat provinces.
From 6 to 11 November, the Mekong-Sekong fisheries project team conducted a survey at 51 fishing communities in Kratie and Stung Treng provinces about main fisheries management issues, and identified illegal fishing, lack of fishing equipment and limited cooperation of local stakeholders as most cited issues.
Following the joint workshop in October, the Cambodian teams of the Sesan – Srepok Rivers and the Mekong Delta projects continued to improve their national issue papers to verify the information through field data collection and technical meetings. This will form a basis for the prioritisation of common issues with their counterparts in Vietnam.
The Cambodia National Mekong Committee coordinates the above four projects.
In October, the Lao working group of the Mekong – Sekong fisheries project organised a three-day workshop on transboundary fisheries management in Champasack and Attapeu provinces. A total of 23 participants from relevant offices and fishing communities identified needs to raise awareness on negative impacts of illegal fishing and destructive fishing practice, to protect significant breeding habitats of stockfish, and to strengthen community-fishing regulations.
The Laos National Mekong Committee along with the Department of Livestock and Fisheries also organised an annual workshop on significant fisheries management issues in Attapeu province in late December, where a wide range of issues were identified for further actions.
Meanwhile, the Lao team of the Xe Bang Hieng – Nam Kam wetlands project continued to work on a survey questionnaire to collect baseline data on the wetland, from village profiles to socio-economic situations to water-related environmental management issues. In October, the team organised a consultative workshop for field survey trainers before sending them to seven villages in Xe Champhone, a Ramsar wetland. A total of 21 villagers including nine females were trained for data collection during the five-day field training period.
The regional Water Resources Office in the southern Thailand organised on 7 October an integrated water resources management workshop in Hat Yai to showcase the progress of the Tonle Sap – Songkhla Lakes project, in particular about community activities at the Thai three pilot sites. About 120 people from the local authorities and the three communities attended the workshop, where the local government officials expressed their willingness to cooperate with those communities when appropriate.
On 21 November, the climate change adaptation working group under the same lakes project conducted a training session for a youth group in Thale Noi. About 30 junior high school students were taught about climate change issues and how to possibly mitigate them, using an example of solid waste recycle and reuse.
In October, meanwhile, the lakes project’s fishery conservation group in Chongfuen launched a social enterprise scheme “Songkhla Fisheries Enterprise” to encourage entrepreneurship. The community members, except those involved in illegal fishing, are encouraged to invest in the enterprise, buying a share at 100 Baht each, and support its community development initiatives.
The Viet Nam National Mekong Committee and its three transboundary projects of the Mekong – Sekong fisheries, the Sesan – Srepok Rivers and the Mekong Delta were saddened by the loss of their colleague Mr Pham Tan Ha, a national consultant for the Sesan - Srepok project.
Mr Ha died on 12 December from an illness, and his funeral service was held in the following week at his home in Buon Ma Thuot in Dak Lak Province. He is survived by his wife and two children.
Mr Ha, a water resources expert and GIS specialist, joined the transboundary project in March 2014. Since then, he has worked tirelessly, leading the design of detailed work plan for the Sesan - Srepok project and the preparation on a national transboundary issues paper. When the communication workshop was held last May, he also assisted the organisation of a field trip to the Mekong Delta and shared his knowledge with the participants. All M-IWRMP personnel send their prayers to his family. May his soul rest in peace.