The BRIDGE technical forum “Data Sharing and Common Framework for River Ecology Assessment in the 3S Basins,” held in Bangkok, Thailand from 4 to 5 February 2015, brought together 48 experts representing 28 government agencies and non-government organizations from Cambodia, Lao PDR and Viet Nam, as well as the Mekong River Commission, to provide a platform for dialogue and collaboration.
3S stands for the Sekong, Sesan and Sre Pok Rivers of the three countries. They are the only trans-boundary tributaries of the Mekong and collectively their basins provide food and livelihood to over three million people. Over the past two decades the 3S Basins have seen rapid social and economic growth and with it pressures such as pollution and habitat loss from intensified agriculture, massive development projects, industrial activities and proliferating human settlements. Because of their trans-boundary nature, collaboration across the three countries is necessary to ensure the 3S Basins’ sustainability.
BRIDGE, or Building River Dialogue and Governance, is an IUCN project that facilitates cooperative processes in the 3S by strengthening water governance and promoting trans-boundary cooperation.
“Collaboration among all stakeholders across the three countries is a requirement to ensure sustainable use of the 3S Basin’s resources,” said Raphaël Glémet, Senior Programme Officer for IUCN Asia Regional Office. “BRIDGE is helping facilitate this process both at the technical and governance levels.”
The goals of the forum included:
- identifying available data for integrated water resource management (IWRM) planning
- carrying out stakeholder mapping of organisations and individuals involved with data generation and knowledge management in the basins; and
- discussing technical and institutional mechanisms to enhance data collection and sharing.
Data sharing across countries and organizations is critical to successful trans-boundary cooperation. While significant data on the 3S is already available, discussions during the forum highlighted the need to organize the data, harmonize it, improve access and communicate it to a larger audience.
The forum established a vision for a framework of a common river ecology assessment by the 3S countries, dedicated to supporting and monitoring sustainable development in the basins. This will include common tools and indicators on economic growth, social development and environmental conservation. Participants also discussed the role that different organizations can play in the development of the said common ecology framework.
“It is important for stakeholders to come up with a common agreement or a shared masterplan for the 3S in order to ensure a balance between development and natural resources protection,” said Dr Tek Vannara, Executive Director of The NGO Forum on Cambodia, and a participant in the forum.
Following this forum, the BRIDGE project will be supporting the development of the framework for river ecology in the 3S Basins through a participatory approach involving key stakeholders and will also liaise with these stakeholders in the region on ways to improve data dissemination.