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Mekong adaptation study kicks off

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A bird’s eye view of the Mekong River, in Kratie province in 2018. MRC

Mekong adaptation study kicks off

The Mekong River Commission (MRC) launched a joint study on June 29 with the Lancang-Mekong Water Resource Cooperation Centre on how to adapt to changing hydrological conditions in the Lancang-Mekong Basin amid rapid development and a changing climate.

The joint study, titled “Changing Patterns of Hydrological Conditions of the Lancang-Mekong Basin and Adaptation Strategies”, will be carried out in two stages.

The first stage starts this year and is expected to yield actionable recommendations. The second will come during 2023-2024, implemented in coordination with the MRC Strategic Plan 2021–2025.

The joint study was launched at the MRC-hosted 12th regional stakeholder forum held in the Thai capital Bangkok, where a central topic was how to improve the sharing of information and coordination of dam activities in order to provide added benefits and minimise any impact on downriver communities.

The forum was aimed at addressing critical climate change and environmental challenges in the Mekong river basin and to show the progress of the research on the changing patterns of the hydrological conditions of the Lancang-Mekong river basin to the adaptation strategy group.

Since 2019, when the Mekong recorded unprecedentedly low-flows of water due to drought and hydrological activities upriver, the MRC Secretariat and the Lancang-Mekong Water Resource Cooperation Centre, headquartered in Beijing, have agreed to work together on improving information sharing and joint activities in support of the six Mekong countries, with both signing the first MoU for better upper-lower Mekong management.

“The MRC and the Mekong-Lancang Cooperation [MLC] including China are working on a joint study on the changing flow regime of the Mekong-Lancang river basin which will contribute definitively to implementation of the sustainable hydropower strategy,” MRC Secretariat CEO Anoulak Kittikhoun said at the forum.

He said the study was necessary in an age where divergent perspectives among stakeholders on the conditions of the river and the causes of change to the river have become apparent.

Hao Zhao, secretary-general of the Lancang-Mekong Water Resource Cooperation Centre, said at the forum via video conference that the Beijing recommendations adopted in December 2021 recognised that MLC countries are facing challenges such as increasing demand for water resources, frequent occurrences of flooding, droughts, aquatic ecosystem degradation, aggravating pollution and other uncertainties brought about by climate change.

The joint study won’t be purely for scientific reasons, but also for the mutual sharing of hydrological and meteorological data, models and other knowledge because information sharing is critical for the success of the study and the river management, he said.

“We sincerely trust that by launching the joint study at this important forum organised by the MRC Secretariat, the policy-makers, researchers, diplomats and civil society can come together in partnership.

“We can promote coordination and cooperation across the river basin taking joint and concerted actions to deal with floods, droughts and other adverse impacts caused by climate change and human activities to address water-related issues of common concern,” Hao Zhao said.

He said he strongly believed that excellent results will be achieved in many cooperative areas, especially in terms of information sharing, a joint study and ultimately an integrated water resource management system for the sustainable development of the basin.

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