The impact of climate change in the Lower Mekong Basin (LMB) countries – Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and Thailand – is particularly severe, as their economies rely heavily on climate sensitive sectors such as agriculture and fisheries. The cascade of climate change impacts is already putting people’s livelihoods at risk despite the efforts undertaken by the individual countries.
An analysis of the four LMB countries’ policy responses to water-related impacts of climate change showed that these efforts were not sufficient to address transboundary climate change challenges. This has led the Mekong River Commission and its four member countries to prepare a river basin-wide strategy – Mekong Adaptation Strategy and Action Plan (MASAP).
MASAP focuses on addressing key transboundary issues, including challenges placed by growing energy and water demands of the four LMB countries, where seasonal water shortages are already common. LMB countries’ climate changes responses often include significant investment on hydropower and irrigation dams in main and tributary streams of the Mekong river as part of their priority adaptation and mitigation measures, which in turn are causing significant changes in Mekong’s water regimes. This is resulting in increased threats to national food security and environment and natural resources degradation, in particular in downstream countries.
Once approved, MASAP will provide guidance and support to MRC member countries on critical transboundary issues, including:
1. the need to address the climate and water linkage at basin level using integrated water resources management (IWRM) approach;
2. the need to address transboundary issues associated with climate change adaptation; and
3. the need to support riparian countries to implement their adaptation strategies and plans at national, regional and international level.
MASAP includes also a portfolio of concept notes for trans-boundary adaptation projects, and focuses on seven strategic priorities:
1. Mainstreaming CC into regional and national policies, programs and plans;
2. Regional and international cooperation and partnership on adaptation;
3. Implementation of transboundary, gender sensitive adaptation options;
4. Access to adaptation finance;
5. Monitoring, data collection and sharing;
6. Capacity development for climate change adaptation strategies and plans;
7. Outreach of MRC products on climate change and adaptation.
The development of MASAP, which started with a kicked-off meeting in 2014, included several rounds of consultations. The most recent was held in Lao PDR on 26 June, where a Regional Stakeholder Forum provided a final opportunity for civil society, non-governmental and governmental organizations, and regional and international groups to comment on the draft document.
This basin-wide strategy is a unique opportunity to complement the existing national climate change strategies and plans of the four LMB countries, as well as their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions related to adaptation. The final draft of the MASAP is expected to be discussed and endorsed in the joint committee in August 2017, with formal approval expected this year.