Lower Mekong Report
Planning Approaches for Water Resources Development in the Lower Mekong Basin
Portland State University, Institute for Sustainable Solutions, in collaboration with Mae Fah Luang University (MFU) in Thailand, has prepared a report to help inform to the water resource management and planning process in the lower Mekong River Basin. The report recommends a more comprehensive study of the impacts of constructing planned hydropower dams along the lower Mekong River where it flows through the nations of Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam.
Governments in the Lower Mekong Basin (LMB) face decisions that involve trade-offs between economic, environmental and social costs and benefits related to ongoing and proposed water resource developments in the basin. These decisions involve complex problems that present challenges for researchers and decision-makers.
As an advisory body to LMB governments, the Mekong River Commission (MRC) was mandated by its 1995 agreement to develop a Basin Development Plan (BDP) to promote the coordinated development and management of water and related resources at the basin level using the principles of Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM). MRC also commissioned a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) to address the environmental issues surrounding eleven planned mainstream dams. While the BDP analyzes multiple uses of the Mekong River including hydropower, irrigation, aquaculture etc., the SEA provides detailed analysis on the potential impacts of the dams, thus complementing the BDP in providing a basis for discussion of mutually beneficial levels of water resources development in the basin.
Purpose of the report
Both the BDP and SEA processes are among key planning tools that support LMB policy makers in reaching balanced decisions between basin development and sustainability. While these processes have provided valuable inputs to the ongoing policy dialogue, it is recognized that analyses could be strengthened in several key areas, including sensitivity analysis of cost-benefit analysis (CBA) of development scenarios, ecosystem services valuation, and social impacts assessment.
In February 2011, PSU Institute for Sustainable Solutions, in collaboration with Mae Fah Luang University (MFU) in Thailand, prepared the report entitled, “Planning Approaches for Water Resources Development in the Lower Mekong Basin,” to demonstrate relevant analytical approaches for these analyses. The main objective of the report is to provide guidance on how MRC planning efforts can incorporate these new approaches and continue to evolve, improve, and be better integrated in future versions.
Key elements of the report include:
- Discussion how to better deal with risk, uncertainty, and discounting the future in analyzing costs and benefits of different water resource development scenarios in the LMB;
- Review of changes in fisheries, a major ecosystem service of the Mekong River on which uncertain impacts from planned developments in the basin, including mainstream hydropower developments, could significantly influence the costs and benefits of different development scenarios;
- Review of methods to internalize the value of the ecosystem services currently being provided in the LMB and how these estimates might change under different development scenarios and different assumptions about key variables; and,
- Suggestion on how to better integrate and model all of these elements in an evolving planning process that incorporates a broader set of scenarios and a higher degree of stakeholder participation.
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