26th Apr 2016
IWRMP's quarterly eNewsletter tells stories on the transboundary water resources management initiatives.
Aiming to improve the official process of water diplomacy, high-level representatives of the lower Mekong River basin countries and experts from the Mekong River Commission Secretariat gathered in Thailand on 25 February to discuss lessons learnt from the MRC’s first two cases of hydropower diplomacy.
The one-day workshop on the Dialogue of Lessons Learnt from the Implementation of the Procedure for Notification, Prior Consultation and Agreement (PNPCA) and Guidelines drew 64 participants from the National Mekong Committees of Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand and Viet Nam, their governmental line agencies and the secretariat. The PNPCA is one of the MRC’s five procedures based on integrated water resources management principles to govern water diplomacy among the four member countries for sustainable development of the basin. It stipulates the official process of dialogue on water use such as hydropower development and water diversion of the Mekong mainstream and tributaries.
The MRC has so far dealt with two hydropower projects on the Mekong mainstream – Xayaburi and Don Sahong – through the PNPCA and underwent the Prior Consultation process, in which the hydropower project proposing country, Lao PDR, was required to consult with the other member countries to prevent possible adverse transboundary impacts on riverine communities and the environment downstream. In accordance with the procedure, both cases were referred to the MRC Council, the highest body consisting of four ministers, when no consensus on the projects was reached at the MRC Joint Committee with four ministerial department directors. In the case of Don Sahong, the Council further referred the case to the government to resolve through diplomatic channels as stipulated in the procedure.
The workshop was organized to draw lessons from those two cases in order to improve the process. It was supported by the World Bank and the GIZ.
Facilitated by five international experts on water law and public engagement, the participants discussed various issues such as how to increase clarity to the process, how to engage with the public to manage their expectation and what to learn from international conventions and water governance laws, among others. It became clear that there are multiple different understandings with all stages of the process, and that it is necessary to add more clarity around the roles and responsibilities with the PNPCA process and public consultation.
Based on the inputs from the workshop, the MRC Secretariat will complete a working paper on the lessons learnt as a living document to support the future PNPCA implementation.
Wetland management project teams from Lao PDR and Thailand met on 10 March to discuss how to move forward with its joint report on wetland management issues on Xe Champhone and Nong Han. The teams have been conducting literature review, field research and exchange visits to identify common wetland issues and best management practices for mutual learning and future cooperation.
Xe Champhone in southern Laos and Nong Han in eastern Thailand are both recognised as internationally important wetlands which provide rich ecosystems in aquatic flora and fauna and support local livelihoods.
The joint process of wetland management is one of the efforts that the Mekong River Commission has been supporting in order to realise the MRC’s Integrated Water Resource Management principles for mutual benefits in the Mekong Basin’s transboundary areas. The report is expected to complete by mid-2016.
Addressing the issues of the impact of hydropower development and the lack of a joint infrastructure planning are some of the priority issues for the Sesan-Srepok and the Mekong Delta transboundary areas, respectively, to tackle jointly for sustainable development, according to the two transboundary project teams of Cambodia and Viet Nam.
Representatives of the two projects met in Hanoi on 22 and 23 March to discuss water resource management issues in an attempt to identify joint issues to tackle together in the future. As a start, the two teams have been working on the identification of national significant issues, based on literature reviews, field data collection and national consultation, and have found the impact of hydropower development, water quality degradation and hazardous floods and droughts as some of the national priority issues.
During the meeting, the two project teams presented those national issues and discussed a way forward to identify joint significant water resource management issues. The two teams also discussed how to formulate a joint issues paper and the timeline for the next steps to proceed with the project.
Among others, the Sesan-Srepok team came to agree on dealing with issues such as data sharing mechanisms and mitigation measures to address the impact of hydropower development, while the Mekong Delta team decided to work on flood and drought management and infrastructure planning and monitoring among other issues.
The two teams will continue to work together to draft a joint paper on strategic water management issues and to set up a coordination mechanism and develop an action plan to address those issues in the coming years. The joint papers are expected to be finalised by the end of August 2016.
These two projects are part of the five World Bank-funded transboundary projects to promote the Mekong Integrated Water Resources Management principles at the sub-basin level.
The Mekong River Commission Secretariat has made progress in its regional support for the transboundary cooperation and dialogue of the Mekong River Basin.
On 28 March, the MRC’s Environmental team held a technical workshop in Hanoi about a case study of environmental impact from hydropower development of the Sesan River as part of its development of the Transboundary Environmental Impact Assessment (TbEIA) Framework and Guidelines. The framework and guidelines are expected to supplement the cooperation through the Procedures for Notification Prior Consultation and Agreement (PNPCA) and to help better understand conflict resolution in transboundary environmental matters and environmental considerations for sustainable hydropower development.
During the workshop, the participants from the National Mekong Committees of Cambodia and Viet Nam learned about proposed criteria for determining significant transboundary environmental impact, methodologies for the Sesan case examination, and the regional work plan among others.
Earlier to this workshop, the MRC’s Basin Development Plan team organised a workshop with representatives of the four MRC member countries of Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand and Viet Nam to develop a new set of bilateral and multilateral joint projects on water and related resources management.
During the workshop held in Bangkok on 24 February, the participants agreed to set up joint projects to develop and manage the Mekong Delta (Cambodia-Viet Nam), undertake a cooperative regional assessment of the Sekong, Sesan, and Srepok sub-basins (Cambodia-Lao PDR-Viet Nam), develop and manage the Khone falls border area, including monitoring of Don Sahong (Cambodia-Lao PDR), ensure navigation port and safety regulations are improved (Lao PDR-Thailand), and work on integrating water resources management of the Cambodian-Thai border area (Cambodia-Thailand).
These projects form part of the five-year National Indicative Plans, which are national work plans of the four member countries that enable the realisation of the Mekong River Commission’s Mekong Basin Development Strategy 2016-2020.
The national plans are expected to be officially approved by mid-2016, and initial activities under these joint projects would commence later this year.
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 team of the Mekong Delta transboundary project conducted field work in Takeo province in early January, in an effort to collect data and information on transboundary water management issues from the border communities as part of the development of a national issue paper. This followed a similar data collection field trip by the Cambodian team of the Sesan-Srepok transboundary project to Ratanakiri province in late December.
The field work in Takeo verified that flood and drought are the key issues to deal with while for the Sesan – Srepok area, key challenges include the issues in relation to hydropower development such as changes in river flow regime and limited capacity to respond water related disasters.
Meanwhile, the Mekong – Sekong fishery management project team conducted two national consultative meetings in January, one in Stung Treng and another in Phnom Penh, to discuss findings of their joint review paper on transboundary management issues, challenges and data sharing needs with relevant stakeholders. The team met with representatives from the ministries, NGOs add universities as well as provincial working group members and people in the communities.
The use of illegal fishing gears, exploitative fishing practices and weak enforcement of fishery laws are main problems for the communities to protect livelihood and environment, including the Irrawaddy dolphin conservation area.
The Tonle Sap - Songkhla Communication Outreach project team also held a national consultative meeting on the stakeholder analysis on 10 February in Siem Reap with the Tonle Sap Authority working group, relevant national agencies, NGOs, universities and provincial representatives. The team shared findings of the stakeholder assessment that the Tonle Sap’s environmental impacts are mainly caused by waste disposal including wastewater from households, agricultural chemical fertilizer, deforestation by natural fires and land clearance, climate change, and illegal fishing activities.
The lake team further met in late March with residents of two pilot sites of fisheries communities – Srey Cheuk - Prek Tachan in Pursat and Rohasourng Sdei Kroum in Battambang – to discuss the community role, activities, issues and needs for support by the project.
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 Lao team in the Xe Bang Hieng – Nam Kam Wetlands management project carried out field data collection in late February through early March in seven target villages in Champhone district of Savannakhet province. A total of 34 persons including eight women partook in the collection of data on socioeconomic aspects, agricultural production, land management and water management in the wetland.
The information collected will be used as the basis for the planned exchange of experiences in wetland management between Xe Champhone in Xe Bang Hieng and Nong Han in Nam Kam and the further exchange of knowledge on community water management in the two wetlands.
The field work also helped to build capacity of local staff on data collection technique and statistical compilation of the villages.
Meanwhile, the Lao team of the Mekong – Sekong fisheries management project has developed a refined fisheries monitoring programme through consultation with the relevant stakeholders.
The team made field trips to Sukuma district of Champasak province and Xayshettha district of Attapeu province in early February to meet with local officials and fishermen. The meetings concluded with the appointment of 3 fishermen in each of the four villages in those districts to collect data of fish catch all around the year. In late March, the team further refined and finalized the fisheries monitoring programme with a standard sampling technique at a workshop held in Pakse. Under the new programme, appointed fishermen in the monitoring network will sample fish catch through nine steps of measuring.
Thai’s Climate Change Adaptation working group, one of the three pilot initiatives in the Tonle Sap – Songkhla Lakes communication outreach project, has drafted climate change adaptation guidelines for the lake communities to develop coping strategies and adapt themselves to likely impacts.
The guidelines were developed based on a survey of 434 households in 23 villages in Thambon Thale Noi and Thambon Phanangtung in Phattalung province in February, where the working group together with the Institute for Peace Studies at Prince of Songkhla University assessed the community’s vulnerability and impact of climate change. The team further met with community representatives and local government officials to discuss climate change issues such as extreme drought and unusual heavy storms.
The draft guidelines, which were presented at a three-day workshop in Huai Saneng of Suring province in early March, offer a number of coping strategies such as the introduction of drought-resistant crops to plant and the information on how to access meteorological data and understand early warning systems.
On 19 March, the fisheries working group of the Songkhla project held a workshop in Thambon Chong Fuen of Phattalung Province to raise awareness of fish conservation and released fish into the lake.
The fish release was a key event of the workshop, releasing 5,000 each of sea bass and spotted scat and 200,000 each of tiger prawn and giant freshwater prawn. The working group conducts such fish release five times per year, contributing to the increase of fish stock in the lake and the improvement of livelihoods.
Meanwhile, the Nam Kam wetland team in the Thai – Lao transboundary project kicked off a series of workshop in late February to introduce the project, data collection and risk analysis on the Nong Han wetland to the surrounding communities.
The first workshop was held on 24 February in Phon Na Keao district and the second on 25 March in Thambon Lao Por Dang, and another one was to be held in early April in Thambon Cheing Kue. More than 70 people each from the communities participated in the workshop, respectively, to learn about the transboundary project as well as the method of data collection for a risk analysis of the wetland management. A set of data collection tools with questionnaire had been devised by a small group of specialists consisting of district chief officers, and scientists from the district agricultural extension office, Sakon Nakhon Rajabhat University and other groups. The project team aims to compile a risk assessment report later this year, which will be shared with the Lao counterpart.
The Vietnamese teams of the Mekong Delta project and the Sesan – Srepok project continued to work on the preparation of a joint paper on the significant water management issues for each project.
The national teams held meetings with relevant line agencies to learn more about water management issues in the border provinces, prepared for a joint bilateral workshop in Hanoi in March, and continued preparation for upcoming field trips to the Mekong Delta and the Highlands to assess issues, challenges and needs with provincial line agencies.