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Shared River, Shared Future: Interactive Workshop on Mekong River Development

in Program

The Stimson Center’s Mekong Policy Project held an
interactive workshop in Bangkok during July 17-19, 2011, focused on current
plans for building hydropower dams on the mainstream of the Lower Mekong River.  The scenario-based workshop will be held with
the assistance of Partnerships for International Strategies in Asia (PISA).  Role playing activities will examine the interests
and drivers of these proposals, the potential national and regional environmental
economic impacts and consequences for regional relations, and policy
alternatives that could protect the river’s natural functions while also
meeting the development goals and needs of the Lower Mekong countries and their
citizens.

Shared_River_Shared_Future_Logo

July 17, 2011 – July 19, 2011
Courtyard Marriott Hotel
Bangkok, Thailand

 

Participants Roadmap Statement

While not every participant agreed with every point, the participants of the Shared River, Shared Future conference developed a consensus on the following statement:

The Mekong river basin faces complex challenges at present and in the
foreseeable future related to water resources management, sustainable economic
development, preservation of ecosystem functions, food and energy security,
livelihoods, and regional peace and stability. To address these challenges, all
the participants of the Shared River, Shared Future workshop call for:

1)
Creation and promotion of opportunities for dialogue among key stakeholders
concerned with the development and conservation of the Mekong river basin
including government agencies, private sectors, civil society, and local
communities;

2) Development and utilization of effective mechanisms
supported by adequate funding for building trust, leading to cooperation and
collaborative decision making among the key stakeholders; and

3)
Identification of synergies among various existing cooperation frameworks,
including the Mekong River Commission, the Greater Mekong Sub-region, ASEAN-plus
fora etc, to achieve an integrated and coordinated plan for sustainable
development of the Mekong river basin.

Video

Planet Forward spoke with Dr. Richard Cronin about the Shared River Shared Future conference.

 

 

Workshop Description

The Stimson Center’s Mekong Policy Project held an
interactive workshop in Bangkok during July 17-19, 2011, focused on current
plans for building hydropower dams on the mainstream of the Lower Mekong River.  The scenario-based workshop will be held with
the assistance of Partnerships for International Strategies in Asia (PISA).  Role playing activities will examine the interests
and drivers of these proposals, the potential national and regional environmental
economic impacts and consequences for regional relations, and policy
alternatives that could protect the river’s natural functions while also
meeting the development goals and needs of the Lower Mekong countries and their
citizens.

Although numerous dams have already been built on
tributaries of the Mekong, mainstream dams pose
a significantly greater threat to the viability of one of the world’s most
productive freshwater fisheries and rice growing regions.  While considerable research has been
conducted on the river’s natural systems and fisheries, less concerted
attention has been given to the long term social, political, or economic consequences
of commercial projects to tap the significant hydropower potential of the
mainstream.   

 

Context

The announcement by Lao PDR that it intends to move forward with
construction of the 32 meter high Xayaboury dam has triggered the Mekong River
Commission’s (MRC) Procedures for Notification, Prior Consultation, and
Agreement (PNPCA).  This process was adopted
as part of the 1995 Mekong Agreement that created the MRC to provide a venue
for the four Lower Mekong Countries – Cambodia,
Laos, Thailand and Vietnam – to deliberate and
ultimately reach agreement on infrastructure development plans that would
affect the river’s water or alter natural hydrology.  If the Lao government proceeds with the
project without first gaining the agreement of the three other governments that
comprise the MRC, serious questions will arise regarding the value and future
of the PNPCA process and ultimately the 1995 Agreement establishing the MRC
itself.

The first phase of the PNCPA process concluded on April 19,
2011, when Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam expressed concerns about the potential for negative environmental and socioeconomic impacts resulting from the project.  Laos has agreed to postpone the project allowing for further study, and the negotiations will continue at the ministerial level in Fall 2011.  An extensive study commissioned by the MRC
and carried out by a number of internationally recognized scientific experts
ultimately recommended a 10 year moratorium on all mainstream dam construction
in the Lower Mekong.  The MRC published but did not endorse the
report’s recommendation.

 

Participation

This 2-day workshop provided a valuable opportunity for
participants to broaden their understanding of the regional dynamics of
mainstream dams, the benefits and challenges of regional cooperation, and
alternative futures for the region’s most important shared economic resource.  The workshop also provided an opportunity
for participants to expand their professional networks across career fields and
national boundaries.  Participants were drawn from government, international organizations, non-governmental
organizations and other civil society, industry, the scientific community and
academia.  The interactive exercises organized participants into mixed teams which will be tasked with roles and
responsibilities for addressing different but interconnected elements of local,
national, and regional river management and development policies. 

The 20 participants invited to the workshop hail from Cambodia, China, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam and have a diverse range of professional backgrounds.  All have a deep interest and impressive experience working on the environmental, economic and human security challenges surrounding transboundary water use and
infrastructure development.  The workshop
sessions were informal, free flowing and off-the-record to maximize the
potential to learn about current developments and their implications, and
actively engage with a diverse group of participants on possible policy
alternatives in a friendly and cooperative atmosphere.

To see a complete list of participants, click here.

 

Background Reading and Resources

Richard Cronin and Timothy Hamlin, Mekong Tipping Point, Stimson Center, April 2010

Philip Hirsch, China and the Cascading Geopolitics of Lower Mekong Dams, The Asia-Pacfic Journal Vol 9, Issue 20, No 2, May 16, 2011

Catch and Culture, Mekong River Commission, Vol. 14, No. 3, December 2008

ICEM, Strategic Environmental Assessment of Hydropower on the Mekong Mainstream Final Report, prepared for the Mekong River Commission, October 2010

Proposed Xayabouri Hydropower Project MRC’s Prior Consultation Process, Mekong River Commission Website

Additional publications and resources can be found on Stimson’s Mekong Policy Project homepage

Contact

For substantive questions, please contact the Program Director, Dr. Richard Cronin[email protected]

For logistics questions, please contact Ms. Nicole Dieker[email protected]

Follow the conversation on Twitter @SharedRiver

 

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