Presentations & Abstracts
Mr Jim Webb (Deputy Managing Director and Senior Environmental Manager, Hatfield Consultants Mekong, Vientiane, Lao PDR)
The presentation described available concepts and tools that could be utilized for the developing a common framework for the assessment of river ecology in trans-boundary river basin. The specific issue and concepts discussed are as below:
- River ecosystems and river health
- River ecology assessments
- Holistic approach
- Trans-boundary assessment methodology
Presentation highlighted that river health is an inclusive concept and river ecology assessment an evolving science. It was pointed that management of shared waters should include all components of the basin and involve all the stakeholders in decision making process. Historically, there hasn’t been much appreciation of the need for maintaining natural river flow regimes and its implication for basin ecology. According to current understanding, the full natural range of flow conditions is important for the maintenance of the health of river ecosystems. Therefore, it is important to combine hydrological and ecological information to classify rivers and to set flow regimes, called environmental flows (e-flows).Furthermore, any assessment of environmental flows requires:
- Water audits: a summary of the water resource availability in the river basin, including trends and anomalies based on available data;
- Classification of major stretches of the river basins that includes river sources, pristine areas, and highly developed areas;
- An interdisciplinary team; and
- Conducting the assessment of the current health of the river at different times of the year (i.e. wet and dry seasons).
The presentation highlighted the following six steps, important in any e-flows assessment:
- Defining the ecological assets;
- Agreeing on the desired condition of the assets;
- Setting ecological objectives (targets);
- Establishing the scientific work to determine the flows needed to meet the objectives;
- Determining the impacts on other users; and
- Undertaking trade-offs and negotiations.
South Africa has been a pioneer of e-flows and has developed holistic e-flows methodologies for the management of many of their river basins. The holistic methodology currently in use considers complete ecosystems and can be used in combination with other approaches including hydrological, hydraulic and habitat methods. The method comprises
the systematic development of an e-flow regime to maintain specific objectives. The method requires in-depth technical knowledge and a multidisciplinary team. The method is suitable where emphasis may be on the protection of a broader set of values upon which livelihoods are dependent.
For trans-boundary assessments, the method needs to track changes in the status of stresses on trans-boundary water systems. It should use existing data scattered across multiple sources and take into consideration that data on a national level may need to be re-aggregated on a trans-boundary river basin scale. The Global Environment Facility - Trans-boundary Waters Assessment Programme (GEF-TWAP) has developed an indicator-based approach for designing methodology for trans-boundary river ecology assessment. The approach includes:
- Determining the vision for the trans-boundary water system; and
- Developing a framework: a. Determining indicators;
- b. Developing a scoring system;
- c. Identifying interlinkages and cross-cutting issues among water systems;
- d. Developing partnerships and institutional arrangements; and
- e. Establishing data sharing and information management.
The GEF-TWAP recommends two groups of indicators for the Mekong and 3S Basins: the current state indicators and the projected status in future time periods. Within each of these two groups five indicator clusters should be used, as follows:
- Water quantity;
- Water quality;
- Ecosystem attributes/assets;
- Water governance; and
- Socio-economic features.
One of the important considerations in the selection of indicators is that the number of indicators should be kept to a minimum to keep the framework simple and easy to implement. The indicators should be relevant to a particular issue and easy to understand and to communicate. The indicators need to be acceptable to stakeholders. If data is not available on a river basin/regional scale, it may need to be re-aggregated from different scales. Also, one should look for linkages between human well-being, livelihoods and ecosystems.
The success of any trans-boundary assessment method thus will depend on:
- Clearly defined indicators;
- A manageable number of indicators;
- In-country knowledge of practices and long-term monitoring data availability;
- Clear policy and legislation;
- Implementation regulations, guidance and professional practice;
- Broad stakeholder support;
- Consistent application of indicators; and
- In-country capacity.
Mr Matthew McCartney (Director, International Water Management Institute, Vientiane, Lao PDR)
The International Water Management Institute (IWMI) conducts research to improve the management of land and water resources for food, livelihoods and the environment. In serving this mission, IWMI focuses on the integration of policies, technologies and management systems to achieve pragmatic solutions to real problems—practical, relevant results in the field of irrigation and water and land resources.
This presentation provided an overview of some of IWMI’s and partners’ projects conducted in Southeast Asia. It included research on: 1) models to predict flow characteristics in ungauged Mekong tributaries, 2) opportunities for synergies between hydropower and irrigation in the Nam Ngum Basin in Lao PDR, 3) opportunities for livelihood enhancement in the face of dam-driven change, specifically in the 3S Basins, 4) sustainable expansion of groundwater use for irrigation in Lao PDR, 5) evidence of climate change impacts on rainfall, and 6) development of climate smart villages. In addition, relevant research conducted at IWMI headquarters in Colombo was also presented. This included flood mapping and flood evaluation, as well as irrigated area mapping. In all cases the data utilized were explained and key results presented.
Mr Kongmeng Ly
(Water Quality Programme Officer, MRCS)
In response to the provisions set out in the 1995 Mekong Agreement, the MRC Environment Programme (EP) was established to support the cooperation among the MRC Member Countries to secure a balance between economic development and ecological protection in the Lower Mekong Basin. Along with the establishment of the EP, the MRC Member Countries also recognized that sustainable development of water resources of the Lower Mekong River Basin will not be possible without effective management of water quality. Therefore, the MRC Member Countries agreed to establish Water Quality Monitoring Network (WQMN) and Ecological Health Monitoring (EHM) programs to detect changes in the Mekong River water quality and to take preventive and remedial action if any change in the Mekong River water quality is detected. Since their establishment, the WQMN and EHM have provided a continuous record of water quality and ecological monitoring data that have been used by various organizations to support decision making on development projects. The WQMN and EHM cover stations in the Mekong mainstream and the Mekong tributaries, including the 3S Basins.
Ms Tracy A. Farrell (Senior Technical Director-Greater Mekong Program, Conservation International, Cambodia)
The Tonle Sap (TS) ecosystem is characterized by dynamic flood pulse systems and is functionally connected to the 3S Rivers. Most migratory fish species move from the Tonle Sap and Mekong mainstream up to the 3S Rivers to spawn and grow. People living in the region mainly depend on fisheries and rice farming for their livelihoods. Any impact on the flood pulse system, such as flow flattening due to hydropower development or disruption of 24 annual flow reversal has the potential to disrupt the functioning of TS lake ecosystem and consequently, the local livelihoods.
The presentation noted that many of the proposed hydropower projects on 3S Rivers are large and of comparable scale to the Lancang cascade in the upper Mekong in China with a similar level of active storage. Studies have also indicated that the mainstream dams, once developed, would lead to changes in the long-term flow pattern of the Mekong River, with a 63% increase in dry season flows and 22% increase in wet season flows. Furthermore, Lower Sesan II and Sambor may effectively block most fish migration and sediment flow. This has implications on the food security of those depending on the TS Lake. Integrating available information (on species biology, flow changes, etc.) and modelling the results to inform policy decisions on fisheries management actions is the way forward to better manage food security in the TS.
HE Mr Watt Botkosal (Deputy Secretary General, Cambodia National Mekong Committee)
Eighty six percent of Cambodian territory lies in the Mekong Basin, and are divided into five sub-areas by the Basin Development Plan (BDP). The BDP promotes and enhances the national planning process by integrating the regional perspectives into national planning. Data and information produced by BDP relates to current water dependent sectors and water demands (including ecological demands), development opportunities, potential social, environmental and economic impacts (positive and negative) of development and trans-boundary issues and impacts.
A new socio-economic database was established in relation to flooding, climate change vulnerability, fisheries, water resource access and use. CNMC is responsible for Mekong Basin data management in cooperation with the Ministry of Planning (MOP) which oversees all data storage as designed by National Statistical Institute.
Future analysis and discussion of current situation and trends within 3S Basins in the broader context of the LMB is required to address the main trans-boundary issues: (1) information sharing, (2) participation and dialogue, and (3) application of tools for assessment and decision-making with proposed strategic priorities for Trans-boundary Water Cooperation (IUCN, Watt Botkosal, 2015).
Mr. Piseth Chea
(Information Management Programme Officer, Initiative on Sustainable Hydropower, Mekong River Commission Secretariat)
Dr. Paradis Someth
(Water Utilisation Specialist, Basin Development Plan Programme (BDP), Mekong River Commission Secretariat)
This presentation covers criteria for selecting water parameters for detecting changes in water resources systems (possibly caused by human activities and climate change) and illustrates location, duration, frequency and method of data collection and types of parameters, which the MRC has been monitoring specifically for the 3S Basins. It reviewed existing monitoring activities by the MRC and its Member Countries to see how well the parameters collected support indicators that highlight hydropower changes, or verify an absence of hydropower-induced change, or assist in distinguishing hydropower-induced versus other causes of change.
Baseline information, in this context, provides an understanding of the environmental, social and economic conditions in the receiving environment at a point in time and place in the 23
Lower Mekong Basin as well as in the 3S Basins. The information will provide a scientifically robust understanding to assist discussions about the changes that will occur and their implications and management. Parameters (the types of data that will be collected in the monitoring programme) provide the basis for developing or selecting indicators that are sensitive to change in condition or which show a response to a stressor. Indicators meaningful to hydropower planning and evaluation, and the parameters that inform them, can be grouped under the disciplines of hydrology, water quality, sediments and geomorphology, aquatic ecology, and fisheries.
Existing monitoring programmes cover many of the parameters and indicators considered in this presentation. Of importance to the project team’s work are to build consistency in data collection and analysis methods, to integrate sampling locations between disciplines, to centralise and enhance data access/retrieval and reporting systems, and to ensure that good quality, reliable and meaningful data can be available across the LMB and the 3S Basins over the long-term. Recommendations for improvement have been made in the form of a baseline monitoring programme for hydropower planning that builds on and complements existing activities. This will test the feasibility and practicability of its recommended programme, with the findings used to develop recommendations regarding long-term basin-wide monitoring.
Dr. Sothea Khem (Senior Hydrologist, Information and Knowledge Management Programme, Mekong River Commission Secretariat)
Dr. Paradis Someth (Water Utilisation Specialist, Basin Development Plan Programme (BDP) Mekong River Commission Secretariat)
MRC established a near-real time hydro-meteorological network, based on the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) standard. The network was funded by the French Government through the French Development Agency (AFD) and the Fonds Français pour l'Environnement Mondial (FFEM). The main objective of the MRC hydro-meteorological network is to establish an efficient, reliable and timely hydro-meteorological data collection and transmission system. The system is integrated into the existing MRCS (Mekong River Commission Secretariat) monitoring system, and will also improve the national hydrological networks and river monitoring/forecasting capacities. The 47 network stations provide near-real time water level and rainfall in 15 minute time-steps over the mainstream and main tributaries of the Mekong River. Online charts from the stations are available at: http://monitoring.mrcmekong.org/.
The MRC’s Data and Information strategy is based on the requirements set out in the IKMP programme and Programme Implementation Plan documents. Flood-control works and hydropower were the main targets of interest. The collected data were used for designing and implementing many hydropower, irrigation, navigation and environmental assessment projects, mainly in Mekong tributaries. Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand and Viet Nam have collected and provided data to the MRC Secretariat for final processing, analysis and archiving for common use and sharing.
Ms Amy Trandem (Southeast Asia Program Director, International Rivers)
This presentation provides an overview of two research projects International Rivers has carried out on the Lower Sesan 2 Hydropower Dam (LS2). One is based on a study called Starving the Mekong River, which provides a detailed look into the project’s costs and benefits and decision-making process and argues that LS2 should not proceed as it is currently planned since the potential human and environmental costs are unacceptably high. Studies on LS2, currently under construction in north-eastern Cambodia, have indicated significant impact on fisheries, food security, and local livelihoods. Therefore the project is widely considered as one of the most controversial projects within the Mekong River Basin.
The second study is a comparative review of Hydrolancang’s (LS2’s main dam developer) track record of mitigating some of the environmental and social impacts of two of its dams, the Manwan and Nuozhado, located on the Upper Mekong mainstream, compared with LS2. The research has found significant shortcomings in the LS2’s environmental and social management plan and its budget for fisheries and biodiversity mitigation and resettlement practices. The full report is available for open access on
Dr. Terry Parnell (Project Manager, Open Development Mekong, Cambodia)
The Open Development Initiative (ODI) of the East-West Management Institute (EWMI) offers an innovative online platform for aggregating, organising and objectively presenting a wide range of information, across landscapes and sectors to illuminate development trends. The platform increases public awareness, enables individual analysis, and informs planning and public dialogue to contribute to sustainable development and good governance. Economic development and its social and environmental implications are prioritized. Historical and current information is presented with context, through briefings and compelling data visualizations, without editorial comment.
Initiated in 2011, the pilot site, Open Development Cambodia (www.opendevcam.net), is a go-to site for private sector, civil society, academia and technocrats, and is frequently cited as a source for news, research, and planning. The site attracts 35,000 visitors monthly, 40% return users. Now expanding across the Mekong, a new unified database will support five country websites, in both native and English language, and the regional Open Development Mekong. The shared back architecture enables a regional, trans-border view.
ODI natively supports good open data standards and crowd-sourced data-sharing. Registered data contributors may directly contribute to the database and participate in a discussion forum to clarify and query data in a private space. Publication follows vetting to standards.
Issues of data availability, use and challenges
Dr Seak Sophat (Head of Natural Resources Management and Development, Faculty of Development Study, Royal University of Phnom Penh)
The presentation describes developmental scenario on the Cambodian side of the 3S Basins. In Cambodia, at least eight hydropower dam projects are either functional or planned. Economic Land Concessions (ELCs), mining concessions and timber laundering in the name of reservoir clearance are some of the major concerns in Cambodia.
Hydrological modelling in Cambodia is being conducted using the Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) and stream hydrology modelling tools like MIKE (integrated hydrological modelling system). Since 2011, Royal University of Phnom Penh (RUPP) has also collated data on waterbirds. The existing and planned methodologies for data collections include the following:
- Water quality monitoring: water sampling, secki disk, hydrological stations.
- Planned instalment of equipment in sub-catchments of the Sre Pok River.
- Hydropower impacts: hydrological modelling as well as remote sensing and geospatial information systems to identify affected areas.
The data generated at various levels is stored by individual agencies. This data is used for research and study, planning, practices, policy and regulation formulation. RUPP data on waterbirds is being used for conservation, awareness raising, teaching and research. Data is typically stored by individual agencies, e.g. hydrology with the Department of Rivers under the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology (MoWRAM), Fisheries Administration (FiA) and some other NGOs (like WorldFish); and socio-economic impacts with 3S River Protection Network (3SPN), RUPP research projects, NGO Forum, etc. Information on forest cover and economic land concessions is stored with the Forest Administration (FA), but is not accessible.
There are major knowledge, cooperation and resourcing gaps, and support is needed to supplement the available information. Some of the major issues include: lack of mechanisms to share data among the concerned agencies working in the 3S Basins; lack of cooperation to share the work and joint actions potentially due to conflict of interests; dearth of financial support to install equipment to collect data; and lack of human resources who are interested in conservation and protection.
Ms Phaylin Bouakeo
(Officer, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, Lao PDR)
The Sekong River Basin is one of the 62 river basins in Lao PDR for which data is collected on five different river ecology parameters: water quality (Ph, temperature etc), GIS (geographical information system), water use (agriculture, domestic and hydropower development), surface water (discharge, rainfall etc) and changes in the ground water level across the basin. Lao PDR has developed tools and guidelines on data collection and management. These include guidelines on River Basin Management; Water Quality Monitoring Guidelines; National Water Resources Inventory, etc. The Lao PDR government has also developed the 2020 National Water Resource Strategy, which aims to achieve sustainable utilization and integrated development of water resources for the benefit of local people, while ensuring environmental protection, effective climate change adaptation and livelihood improvement. The strategy identifies 11 programmes of work, each focusing on 16
specific issues linked to sustainable river basin management, including management of water resources for impact mitigation and adaptation to climate change, protection of water quality for aquatic life; collection, analysis and management of water resource data and information.
In Lao PDR, the coordination of data collection and management involves cooperation among different levels of government. The river ecology data is generated at the district level (there are 42 line agencies working on this) and shared with provincial organizations and the Ministry of Environment (MoNRE). All the data managed by MoNRE is available for access at http://monre.gov.la. The main issues impeding constant monitoring of water quality in Lao PDR include: unclear regulations; limited knowledge, skills and experience of staff; and non-availability of the correct equipment.
Ms Truong Tung Hoa (Officer, Department of Water Resources Management, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, Viet Nam)
This presentation introduces some key regulations on water monitoring in Viet Nam and describes the water monitoring network working in the Sesan and Sre Pok River Basins. Circular No. 29/2011/TT-BTNMT published on 1st of August, 2011 provides for the technical process for environmental inspection of surface water. QCVN 38:2011/BTNMT, the national technical regulation on surface water quality for protection of aquatic life specifies maximum limits for various parameters of surface water quality.
Pleiku station on the Sesan River and Ban Don on the Sre Pok River are sampled 12 times per year to collect water quality data, usually on 15th of each month. Water level and discharge is regularly monitored in several stations, in which Kon Tum on the Sesan River, and Duc Xuyen, Giang Son and Ban Don on the Sre Pok River are real time water level monitoring stations. MRC provides this real time data on their data portal. The National Centre of Hydro-Meteorological Forecasting (NCHMF) in Viet Nam manages the hydrology monitoring network, and frequently monitor, collect data and inform concerned authorities at various levels. The Institute of Meteorology, Hydrology and Environment (IMHEN) manages experimental stations including environment observation stations, marine meteorology stations, and agricultural meteorology stations. The presentation concluded that the number of stations on these basins is limited, monitoring frequency is low and there is lack of data for assessing reservoir operations on water quantity and quality.
Mr Daniel Constable (GIS/Environmental Specialist (IUCN Viet Nam office)
Although significant data exists for the 3S Basins, some strategic gaps remain. The most recent official land cover data set is from 2003. Given the rapid changes in the region, this is a significant data gap. Additional gaps to address include groundwater, the location of areas zoned for mining or other concessions, hydrologically correct river and basin networks for analyses, and populations vulnerable to natural disasters, among others. In addition to gaps, data access and data sharing were noted as areas for improvement. Although the original project focus was on data sharing, much of the collected data remains the intellectual property of the respective data authors and cannot currently be shared by third parties. Could this be overcome by developing web applications using the restricted data, such as interactive maps and tables, to overcome the limitation in raw data dissemination?
Mr Daniel Constable (GIS/Environmental Specialist, IUCN Viet Nam).
This presentation gives a comparative overview of each of the 3S Basins. By compiling and analyzing data at a basin level it is possible to gain a better understanding of the issues affecting each basin. A preliminary profile of the basins noted that the area is roughly divided, with 36% of the area covered by the Sekong, 24% by the Sesan, and 40% by the Sre Pok. There are significant differences in the characteristics of each river basin such as topography, precipitation, and population. The Sekong was noted for its low population density, rugged topography, and high forest cover. The Sesan, the smallest of the three, was found to have more intermediate geophysical characteristics between the Sekong and Sre Pok. The Sre Pok, the largest basin, has the highest population and covers the largest elevation range. As of 2012, the total human population residing within the 3S was around 4.7 million, the majority of which resided in Viet Nam. Hydropower is a relevant issue, with 17 hydropower dams (>10MW) currently in the basins, and another 19 planned or under construction. Most proposed dams would be constructed in Lao PDR.
Mr Raphaël Glémet (BRIDGE Project Manager, IUCN Asia Regional Office, Bangkok)
BRIDGE is a multiregional project, with a focus on knowledge management and trans-boundary cooperation in 14 hotspot river basins. The project is implemented across three continents around the world. The Mekong component of the project has a focus on the so called 3S Rivers: the Sekong (principally in Lao PDR and Cambodia), Sesan and Sre Pok (both straddling Viet Nam and Cambodia). Financed by Water Diplomacy Programme of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), the project aims to build water governance capacities (individual and institutional) through learning, demonstration, and leadership development and building consensus for better management of water resources. Currently in the project is in its second phase. Phase I of the project, which ran from April 2011 to March 2013, assessed the context and possibilities of cooperation in the 3S Basins.
The BRIDGE project uses demonstration of water diplomacy with multi-stakeholder participation to build trans-boundary water cooperation. At the basin level the strategic priorities of action are determined by existing frameworks for trans-boundary water management. In river basins where cooperation strategies or agreements are in place, priority is given to supporting implementation and making the associated local, national and trans-boundary institutions operationally effective. Where no mechanisms for trans-boundary cooperation are in place, the priority is to build channels for dialogue, action and learning from which the new spaces needed for cooperation can emerge.
Why focus on the 3S Basins
The 3S Basins are the most significant trans-boundary tributaries of the Mekong, contributing almost 20% of the total Mekong flow. The Mekong component of BRIDGE has been working on leadership development processes in the 3S region. As a part of the project activity, a series of workshops has been conducted on capacity building and training on hydro-diplomacy for the government officials dealing with natural resource management in the 3S countries. The BRIDGE project focuses on two key mechanisms to promote cooperation in the 3S Basins:
- Technical dialogue: with the aim to support trans-boundary cooperation through science-based decision making; and
- Hydro-diplomacy: enhancing leadership and governance capacities.
The project priority for 2015 is the development of the enabling environment for trans-boundary cooperation in Lao PDR, Cambodia and Viet Nam, by facilitating cooperation, building capacities of key stakeholders and using water resource information to inform wider, cross-sectoral dialogues at the regional level.
The BRIDGE project developed strong linkages with national and local governments of the 3S region in particular with the various departments related to water resources, environment or international cooperation within the various ministries, as well as with the three National Mekong Committees. The project also developed effective cooperation with two programmes of the MRC, namely the Environment programme and the Information and Knowledge Management Programme (IKMP). In the near future, BRIDGE will work on developing and strengthening the link with grassroots level organizations in the 3S Basins. It will also aim to develop stronger links with Cambodia, Lao PDR and Viet Nam (CLV), the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), academic institutions and the private sector in the 3S Basins.