Senior officials from the six Mekong countries on Sunday endorsed recommendations of the first phase of the Joint Study between the Mekong River Commission and Mekong Lancang Cooperation to pave the way for better information sharing about reservoir operations on the Mekong’s water flow, and water release as well as practical solutions to mitigate and adapt to impacts.
The agreement on these recommendations came after hours of deliberation by the MRC Joint Committee and the MLC Joint Working Group on Water Resources Cooperation, at their historic first joint meeting on 10 September in China’s capital Beijing.
The meeting also made a pact to establish a Joint Expert Group to oversee further joint studies and to launch the Joint Lancang-Mekong Survey. The Joint Survey will see both organizations jointly conduct necessary field trips and surveys at key locations in the upper-lower Mekong basin, including relevant engagements and observations on the livelihoods of people and communities living along the river.
“This is good news for the Mekong and our people,” Dr. Anoulak Kittikhoun, Chief Executive Officer of the MRC Secretariat, who facilitated the said meeting with the LMC Water Center. “We can now focus on actions to support implementing the recommendations and do what must be done for the basin’s people and our shared river.”
One of the key recommendations over the short-term period is for the MRC and MLC to work together more closely to ensure there is effective near real-time sharing of storage levels and hydropower operations data throughout the Lancang-Mekong River Basin that could help downstream communities prepare for and adapt to changes. Both institutions and their information platforms are considered ideal mechanisms to enhance notifications of unusual releases and restrictions of water flow, according to the meeting.
Over the long run, the Joint Study recommends that both institutions jointly formulate action plans and strategies, including a comprehensive flood and drought management strategy and a capacity building plan, that can ensure coordinated water resource management and adaptation to changing river conditions.
The Joint Study on Changing Patterns of Hydrological Conditions of the Lancang-Mekong River Basin and Adaptation Strategies was launched in June last year at the 12th MRC Regional Stakeholder Forum (RSF). It aims to understand the changing flow regime and to offer recommendations that can enhance information sharing about reservoir operations throughout the whole Lancang-Mekong River Basin, as well as to seek practical adaptation strategies.
The Study’s early findings and recommendations are included in its first phase report, which will be shared at the 13th RSF on 5 October 2023 in Luang Prabang, Laos. Stakeholders are invited to provide input and feedback on necessary data to be shared and areas of focus for the second phase of the Study.