January - March 2011 Mekong Water Dialogues
Welcome to the very first Mekong Water Dialogues newsletter! The Mekong Water Dialogues (MWD) newsletter aims to keep MWD National Working Groups, partner organisations and other stakeholder groups, around the region and internationally, up-to-date on MWD activities and other water governance news and developments in the Lower Mekong Region.
MWD is coordinated and facilitated by IUCN and supported by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland. It was initiated to work with countries of the Lower Mekong - Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand and Viet Nam - to improve water governance by facilitating transparent and inclusive decision-making for improved livelihood security, human and ecosystem health.
   Listen to Dr Robert Mather, Head of Southeast Asia group, IUCN, explain the priorities of the Mekong Water Dialogues (link to YouTube, external site)   Bookmark and Share

Viet Nam achieves its third wetland of international importance
On 2 February, World Wetlands Day, Ba Be National Park was recognized as Viet Nam’s third Ramsar site. Ba Be National Park is centered on Ba Be Lake, which is at an elevation of 178 m and is the only large natural mountain lake in Viet Nam, located in the in Bắc Kạn Province, northeast Viet Nam.


Viet Nam became the first contracting party to the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, the Ramsar Convention, in Southeast Asia when Xuan Thuy was designated as Vietnam’s first Ramsar site in September 1988. Read the full story

Ba Be lake in National Park

Celebrating World Wetlands Day

World Wetlands Day is celebrated on 2 February - an international day to highlight the importance of wetlands to people's livelihoods and raise public awareness of wetland values.


World Wetlands Day commemorates the adoption of the Convention on Wetlands in 1971 in the Iranian city of Ramsar, on the shores of the Caspian Sea. This year, to celebrate 40 years since the signing of the convention, the theme was forests for water and wetlands, focusing on forested wetlands and the special benefits they bring.


MWD countries were involved in various World Wetlands Day activities around the region. Below is a summary of some of the events that took place through MWD and its partners.



Banners promoting the importance of wetlands adorned the streets in five provinces of Cambodia throughout February this year. More than 500 people from the community and local schools joined the celebrations for World Wetlands Day at the Kampong Luong wetlands, located within the Tonle Sap biosphere reserve located in the western part of the country. Read more




Students wear t-shirt and posters promoting World Wetlands Day gather behind a large banner before starting the parade.


This year World Wetlands Day held special significance in Laos PDR. The first meeting of the National Committee for Wetland Management of the Ramsar Convention in Lao PDR was held in Vientiane on 31 January 2011. The meeting was chaired by H.E Asang Laoly, Vice Prime Minister of Lao PDR, and Chairman of both this Committee and the National Environment Committee. IUCN and the Government of Lao PDR convened a range of activities to recognize the importance of wetlands and the vital role played by forests in the water cycle and in providing environmental services such as protecting water quality and storing carbon. Discover the full story


Participants at the first National Committee Meeting for Wetland Management of the Ramsar Convention in Lao PDR


The Mekong Water Dialogues in Thailand organized a combined celebration of World Wetlands Day and World Water Day. On 2 April in collaboration with the IUCN Livelihoods and Landscapes and Poverty Reduction projects, the community of Mae Salong Nok and partner organizations in the watershed area of Doi Mae Salong, near Chiang Rai in northern Thailand, planted trees within the local forest and also conducted a special water ceremony to pay their respects to nature.


A local girl plants a tree as part of the festivities at Doi Mae Salong.

From Local Watershed Management to Integrated River Basin Management at National and Transboundary Levels

Experts from the Mekong Water Dialogues joined the International Conference on Watershed Management in Chiang Mai, northern Thailand, from 9-11 March, - in various roles as session facilitators, presenters, panelists and participants, to exchange ideas and learn from lessons of watershed management from around the region and across the world.


Lively debates, panel discussions and keynote presentations provided the background for a valuable exchange of information on activities and approaches undertaken in the Lower Mekong Basin and elsewhere.


The conference firmly established the understanding and acknowledgement that effective governance at all scales from small watersheds right through to regional collaboration in transboundary watershed and river basin management is critical for sustainable outcomes. The cumulative effects of a large number of small-scale activities spread throughout watersheds, in the Mekong River context, can potentially lead to effects beyond national boundaries. Read more

> International Conference on Watershed Management (external site)
Dr Robert Mather (left) participates in a panel discussion at the Watershed Management Conference.

Lao PDR - Regional workshop 'implementing Ramsar'

Following the accession of Lao PDR to the Ramsar Convention in 2010, all the countries of the Lower Mekong River Basin are now Contracting Parties to the Convention. This workshop was aimed to assist the Lao government in their implementation of the Ramsar Convention.

The workshop discussions were held in Vientiene, Lao PDR, after a two-day field visit to the Kud Ting Ramsar site across the border in northeast Thailand.


It was the first time, the Ramsar Administrative Authorities, Ramsar Site managers, relevant regional NGOs and other wetland experts were brought together from the region to share their experiences and best practices for wetland conservation and wise use. More than 30 participants attended, travelling from Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand and Vietnam, and China as well. Read on


Workshop participants gather to discuss ideas for wetland management.

Thailand - integrated river basin managament

A meeting to facilitate a multi-stakeholder dialogue meeting was held on 20 March. More than 30 representatives attended from the Land Development Office, the Agriculture Office, Non-government organizations and communities along Mae Chan River Basin (a tributary of the Mekong), near Chiang Rai in northern Thailand.


The participants shared their knowledge of the water and land use situation for integrated management of the Mae Chan River Basin. The outcomes of these dialogues have laid foundations for the discussions of water management for Indigenous people, planned in April this year.


Assessing River Basin Organizations

IUCN Thailand held a consultation meeting on 24 March to discuss a proposed assessment of River Basin Organizations (RBOs) in Thailand.


Thailand has a strong prescence of RBOs, they have been in operation for over 10 years and currently there are 25 RBOs working across the country. It was decided to first undertake a lessons learned workshop for all the RBOs in northeast Thailand, including a more in-depth study of the Chi River Basin as it includes many experienced groups working in different sub-parts of the basin such as Huay Sam Mor, Song Kram, Kut Ting and Beung Kong Long. 

Sharing knowledge of water and land use in the Mae Chan River Basin, Thailand.

Viet Nam - National Working Group meeting

The first National Working Group meeting for MWD Viet Nam in 2011 was held on 27 January in Ho Chi Min City to discuss the state of Integrated Water Resource Management in Viet Nam and the results of the meeting of the Mekong River Commission Council and Donor Consultative Group on 26 January in Ho Chi Min City. Discover more


The National Working Groups of the four Mekong Water Dialogues meet throughout the year. These meeting provide the opportunity for information exchange between the members. To help share this knowledge around the region the meeting summaries will be posted on the MWD website following the meetings. Read the meeting summary


NWG members discussed at the meeting

Investigation of craft village water pollution in Viet Nam
The craft village industry in Viet Nam has witnessed phenomenal growth in the last 10 years, especially in the Red-Thai Binh River Basin, where 60% of craft industries are located. Craft villages are areas with high occupational health risk and exposure to pollution, particularly in small-scale industries with no pollution control technology, worker protection, or wastewater treatment.


Under the framework of the MWD a study of craft village water pollution in Bac Ninh Province and a water dialogue was undertaken to explore the barriers to improved water resources management in craft villages. The key finding was that laws regulating pollution and the enforcement of penalties need to be consistently and transparently enforced. Read the full article and download the report

local people is making noodles at craft villages


Handbook on methods for climate change impact assessment and adaptation strategies

Authors: Feenstra,J.F.; Burton,I.; Smtih,J.B.

This handbook is designed to help those conducting research supporting advice from a wide range of disciplines on the potential impacts of climate change on the environment and their society and economy.



The paradox of value: Water is priceless in use yet worthless in exchange

The paradox of efficiency: Your water-saving device increases our collective thirst

Author: James G. Workman


Science: Mekong Hydropower Development (summary text from www.sciencemag.org)


Websites of interest

Mekong River Commission's Prior Consultation Process:  Proposed Xayaburi Hydropower Project  

MWD websiteNews stories and  Events


22 April: World Earth Day

5 June: World Environment Day

18 - 20 July:  Asian Wetland Symposium,  Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia

21 - 27 August: World Water Week

25 September: World Rivers Day

Logos of the Mekong Water Dialogues and Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland.