24 Oct 2016
Issue 6: July- September 2016
Institutionalising cross-border collaboration mechanisms to assess impact of water resources development, monitor water flow and quality, and provide early warning of flooding are the priorities for the management of the Sesan-Srepok river sub-basins that located in Cambodia’s northeast provinces and Viet Nam’s central highlands, according to the MRC-supported Sesan-Srepok transboundary water resources management project.
Officials of the National Mekong Committees, related ministries and provincial authorities from the two countries, who form the transboundary project, joined a week-long field trip to the sub-basins in late August, in order to verify a number of water resources concerns and management issues of the two rivers and to confirm needs for better mechanisms to address those issues. The project is one of the five bilateral projects of the World Bank-funded Mekong Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) Programme which facilitates transboundary dialogue to promote IWRM-based water management.
During the field trip, the project team visited a number of hydropower stations, a water supply facility and a hydro-meteorological station, among other facilities, to understand how the development of water resources would affect their downstream counterparts and how the upstream country could take measures to mitigate the impact. The teams also visited a village by the Sesan River near the O’Yadav – Le Thanh border, which once suffered from floods caused by the upstream dam but has experienced the effect of mitigation measures taken by the upstream to improve the control of water flow.
“It was a very good opportunity for us to deepen our understanding of water related issues in the sub-basins,” said Watt Botkosal, Cambodia’s IWRMP national coordinator, at a workshop concluding the field trip. “We need to develop a mechanism to share data and information on the hydropower operations, water flow and quality.”
The Sesan-Srepok sub-basins have a number of hydropower stations that were built in the last decade for economic development but have affected local ecosystems and the livelihoods in the region. Through the project, the two countries have identified a number of key issues, such as a lack of monitoring and assessment of water flow, a lack of an effective cross-border flood forecasting and warning system and a need for data sharing among others. The project team is expected to develop a coordination mechanism for data sharing and design an action plan to address some of those issues so that both countries could share the benefits of using the common water resources.
An Pich Hatda, MRC’s planning director, emphasised at the workshop the importance of applying the MRC knowledge such as the five procedural rules, guidelines, tools and knowledge for joint resource management. “The IWRM transboundary projects are very crucial for the member states to institutionalise meaningful cooperation at the sub-basin level based on MRC knowledge… Both Cambodia and Viet Nam could set a good example of cooperation,” he said.
During the workshop, the officials from the two countries also reviewed joint transboundary issues in the Mekong Delta as part of the WB-funded Mekong Delta transboundary water resources management project. Similar to the Sesan-Srepok team, the Delta team is also expected to design a cooperation mechanism and develop an action plan to address the joint issues in coming months.
Nguyen Hong Phuong, Deputy Director General of the Viet Nam NMC who chaired the workshop, thanked the participants for a productive meeting to verify joint transboundary issues through active and open discussions.
The two projects are expected to be completed by early 2018.
Sister lakes of Cambodia’s Tonle Sap and Thailand’s Songkhla Lake reaffirmed their commitment to the improvement of lake governance through joint learning activities, as the both sides met in Bangkok in early July to discuss how to proceed with their sister lakes’ communication outreach project.
The project is one of the five bilateral projects funded by the World Bank to promote integrated water resources management through dialogue in the sub-basins of the Mekong River. It aims to promote healthy lake governance and improve livelihoods of the lake communities through community outreach and joint learning.
With more than 20 years of experience in community-based lake basin management, the Songkhla’s working group is proactive in community-based activities to promote sustainable fisheries, to improve livelihoods through community empowerment, and to manage community adaptation of climate change.
Meanwhile, Cambodia takes a more government-led approach to the lake management. The Tonle Sap Authority is leading the development and management of the lake with support from Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology and its line agencies. Cambodia recently identified a pilot community for joint learning on the three themes of fisheries, community empowerment and climate change adaption.
During the meeting, the both sides reported on their national and joint activities on the lake project and shared a plan for further activities at the both local, joint and regional levels.
Aiming to connect their local activities to joint and regional learning initiatives, the two sides reviewed the action plan and identified linkage between those activities.
Through joint activities, they plan to build a network of both lake communities, produce a report on good governance in the three themes, and conduct a social campaign to raise awareness on the lake governance issues.
“We wish to learn from the Songkhla Lake, because it has done a lot,” said Cambodia’s national coordinator for the bank-funded bilateral projects, Watt Botkosal. He emphasised that joint learning activities between the pilot sites would provide people in the communities ample opportunities to learn from their counterparts and improve the overall lake governance.
Transboundary dialogue is critical for the Mekong’s water resources management, says a water specialist with the World Bank who oversees its grant project of the MRC’s Mekong Integrated Water Resources Management Project during the bank’s support mission to Vientiane in late September.
Greg Browder was interviewed for a short film introducing the five bilateral projects under the M-IWRMP, which promote cross-border cooperation to address key water resources management issues.
During the filming, he spoke about the importance of transboundary dialogue and cooperation to manage the shared water resources of the Mekong which runs through six riparian countries – China, Myanmar, Lao PDR, Thailand, Cambodia and Viet Nam.
“Resources such as water and fish and sediment flow from one country to another, so it is important to cooperate and coordinate in the management and use of these resources,” said Browder in the video interview.
To realise such cooperation, the bank has committed US$8 million to the MRC to advance IWRM practices at the reginal and transboundary levels. Under the M-IWRMP, the four member countries of Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand, and Viet Nam are now strengthening dialogue to promote the multi-sector, cross-border water management through the five bilateral projects.
Working together on fisheries, wetland, delta, lake and river basin management, the member countries build a common understanding of key cross-border issues, seek durable solutions, and share best practices from the counterparts’ experiences.
“It is very large and complex basin, with many different issues.
The IWRM programme has helped the countries identify specific transboundary issues, mainly bilateral issues between two countries, where they can focus on very tangible and concrete transboundary issues,” added Browder.
The introductory video of the transboundary projects is expected to be out by the end of 2016.
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.
People from the Tonle Sap basin communities now have a better understanding of multi-sector cooperative approach to manage shared water resources, as the Tonle Sap Authority with the Cambodia National Mekong Committee organised a training workshop on integrated water resources management (IWRM) on 18 August.
The training was part of the bilateral communication project between Tonle Sap and its sister lake in Thailand, Songkhla Lake, under the MRC’s IWRM project. A total of 35 participants from the national and provincial authorities and the lake communities joined the workshop, where they learned how the lake is currently managed, reviewed on key local issues and challenges in resources management, and discussed the IWRM approach and role of stakeholders to address those issues and challenges.
“I hope the participants got a better understanding of the IWRM concept and their roles and would collaborate with us to promote the healthy lake management,” said Mr Sin Viseth of the TSA.
Meanwhile, Cambodian teams for the Mekong Delta bilateral project and the Sesan-Srepok basin management project continued the finalization of their joint issues papers that address transboundary water management issues.
The teams further began preparation for field work and national consultation to identify an existing transboundary coordination mechanism for data sharing.
In the next few months, the two teams would conduct field trips to assess the current situation of data sharing between the two countries.
The Mekong-Sekong fisheries project team of Cambodia also conducted internal preparatory discussions on upcoming fish monitoring activities and an exchange visit with its Lao counterparts.
In the Xe Bang Hieng wetlands, a team of six members from the local district patrolled the Mark Mee sub-basin in Savannaketh province in early August to monitor the results of their aquatic weed control measures.
The wetlands project working group conducted a cleaning campaign in early June to remove invasive aquatic plants from the wetlands, where dead weeds would clog water flow, causing flooding and interfering with boat transport and fishing.
The patrol team found that the weed control measures were effective to improve water quality in the catchment area, although the area was limited due to the budget constraint.
The cleaning campaign was discussed during the joint meeting between the Lao and Thai teams in late May.
Meanwhile, the Mekong-Sekong fisheries project team of Lao PDR focused on internal preparatory discussions on upcoming fish monitoring activities and an exchange visit with its Cambodian counterparts.
Local authorities and community representatives in the five sub-districts in the Nam Kam region contributed to the local resources management, as the Thai team for the Xe Bang Hieng – Nam Kam wetlands project held a series of Sub-district Administrative Organisations’ data collection workshops in early July and late August. The workshops aimed to update data on the fishery resources and assess risk factors in the resource management.
On 22 September, the team further conducted a field trip to explore the water situation between two floodgates of Suraswadi and Nong Bung in the five districts of Sakon Nakon and Nakhon Panom provinces.
The team observed overbank flows in the plain, flooding over 1,000 rais of rice paddies along the river, and agreed to conduct a feasibility study of dike construction to handle the overbank flows at a follow-up meeting.
These activities are expected to contribute to mutual learning of the bilateral wetlands management project.
In the Songkhla Lake, meanwhile, the Thai working group of the Tonle Sap – Songkhla Lake communication project jointly organised and participated in the 2016 Songkhla Lake Basin Forum on 30 and 31 August, raising awareness of IWRM-based lake management.
The two-day forum at the Taksin University drew more than 300 people from the basin, including those from community organisations, local authorities, universities, business groups, NGOs and the Department of Environmental Quality Promotion.
Through panel discussions, hands-on activities and cultural performance, the participants celebrated the benefits of lake’s natural resources for their livelihoods and shared experiences in local lake management.
The forum called for the basin to protect and advance local food security including the sustainability of aquatic fauna and other natural resources, pointing out that the alteration of land use from rice paddies to oil palm farms and the use of illegal fishing gears put the lake’s food security at risk.
The two teams of the Sesan-Srepok basin management project and the Mekong Delta resources management project continued to finalise the transboundary joint issues papers with their Cambodian counterparts, following the joint field verification trip.
The Sesan – Srepok team had identified a lack of basin-wide water balance assessment, effective flood forecasting system and a better coordination mechanism as some of the key issues, while the Mekong Delta team had found a lack of transboundary strategic planning of infrastructure development and a clear coordination mechanism as joint issues that need attention by the two countries at the sub-basin levels.
The teams also began their preparations for a concept note on the projects’ second output – the establishment of a joint coordination mechanism – to address key management issues, by reviewing documents on the existing cooperation mechanism, updating the current water management practices and discussing details with the line agencies.