Its 4,763-km length, its discharge or flow rate, and watershed size make the Mekong River one of the largest rivers in the world. It is a source of food and income for millions of people, including nearly 65 million who live in its lower basin. Their livelihood is assured by the river and its tributaries. But the development of irrigation, navigation, and hydroelectricity over the past decade has greatly modified the hydrological functioning of the Mekong.
Better understanding for better management
Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Thailand make up the countries of the Lower Mekong Basin (LMB). They established the MRC in 1995, to coordinate development efforts there and to gain better control the river’s effects at their borders. To ensure that each country shares in the Mekong’s benefits, they put the MRC in charge of coordinating use of water and resources in the region.
A new MRC project, funded by a €1.5-million grant from AFD, is focusing on continuing research on low-water and high-water phenomena in the Mekong. It will aid in better understanding the effects of climate change and in analyzing how various development projects have had an impact on the river. This four-year project will last until mid-2025.
“We hope to strengthen the current river monitoring system and to make it more efficient, reliable and capable of collecting and transmitting real-time data on rainfall, water level, and other environmental aspects,” says MRC CEO Dr. An Pich Hatda. “This will contribute to the Mekong River’s development and to its responsible management.”
AFD has provided support to the MRC since 2003. This new funding follows two other AFD grants of €4 million for the first two phases of the MRC’s hydrometeorological network project. During the first phase (2007-2012), the MRC established a network of 49 hydrometeorological stations along the Mekong River and its tributaries. These stations have provided near-real-time data on water levels and rainfall, a real boon in forecasting flooding. In the second phase (2016-2022), the MRC has expanded this network, adding eleven additional stations to broaden understanding of river dynamics.
“We are delighted to continue our funding for the MRC, which we have been supporting for nearly 20 years,” says Julie Gabet-Ouahioune, AFD’s Director in Laos. “AFD’s actions in Laos and throughout the region focus on sustainable resource management along with climate change, environmental conservation, and sustainable livelihoods.” This joint management of the Mekong River has two important effects: it protects the river’s ecosystem, and will likely help the people of the region get along better.