Child in a river in Lao PDR

A new year of excitement and challenges for MWD is now upon us. Reflecting on 2012, we can be satisfied that MWD successfully contributed to promoting improved governance in many aspects of the water and wetlands sectors, at multiple scales including local, national and regional, throughout the year.

Hydropower development in the Mekong is one of the main issues that has been in the news throughout the year, receiving significant media and public attention. But in reality it is just one amongst many issues that is challenging the inclusiveness, transparency and effectiveness of existing governance mechanisms. In November alone, we have seen the Government of Lao PDR hold the ground-breaking ceremony for the Xayaburi Dam – the first to be built on the Lower Mekong Mainstream – and the Cambodian Government approve the Lower Sesan II Dam – both despite continuing largely unaddressed concerns of local communities, fisheries scientists, and environmental NGOs. At the same time foreign governments such as the Unites States have expressed concern, while in Finland the government is investigating Poyry for inappropriate corporate behavior in its dealings regarding the Xayaburi dam.

However contentious they may be, these two dams are just the tip of the hydropower iceberg. At least 88 dams are planned in the Mekong over the next decade. MWD, together with the Challenge Programme for Food and Water supported the production of Mekong, a full length feature documentary, by independent producer Douglas Varchol, which explores in a balanced way, some of the many issues surrounding hydropower development in the Mekong.

Excerpts from the film were shown at a high level panel discussion including the Minister of International Development of Finland, at a special event during IUCN’s once every four years “World Conservation Congress” that was held in Jeju in September. Another important event at Jeju was the launch of the Indo-Burma Hotspot Red List Report of Freshwater Species.

The Mekong Film has been rolled out in the Mekong Region in English, Thai, Lao, Khmer and Vietnamese languages, with the help of the Goethe Institut. You can find out more information about screenings of the film, events at Jeju, and lots more MWD News in this edition. 

Happy New Year!

Robert Mather
Head of Southeast Asia

Dr Robert Mather
Head, Southeast Asia Group

Hydro-diplomacy: Bridging the gap between science, policy and action

How we use and share water is a complex issue. It involves diverse groups of people such as farmers and fishermen, energy suppliers and developers, all of whom are competing for a limited and precious resource. Water use issues typically cross natural, social and political boundaries and can be local, national, regional and global in nature. > Read more

The river Mekong

A story of unintended consequences: lessons for the Mekong Delta

At a meeting of foreign ministers in Phnom Penh, Cambodia on July 13, 2012, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated: "I'll be very honest with you. We made a lot of mistakes. We've learned some hard lessons about what happens when you make certain infrastructure decisions and I think that we all can contribute to helping the nations of the Mekong region avoid the mistakes that we and others made." > Read more


A boy striving to escape from the flood in Mekong Delta

Community Water Dialogues: the impacts of dredging in Ranong Province, Thailand

On the 13 of December 2012, IUCN and the Mekong Water Dialogues financially and technically supported the first Community Water Dialogues (CWD) in Ranong Province, Thailand. The CWD in Ranong focused on the impacts of dredging on local communities and environment. > Read


Community Water Dialogues: the impacts of dredging in Ranong Province, Thailand

MWD Thai National Working Group member nominated for Ashoka Fellowship

Hannarong Yaowalers, a member of MWD Thai National Working Group has been awarded the 2012 Ashoka Fellowship for his devotion to increase public understanding of wetlands and developing participatory wetland protection. Read more on Ashoka webpage

Hannarong Yaowalers, MWD Thai National Working Group Member and Chairman of the Thai-Water Partnership

Capacity Development Training Course for Local Rangers at Boeung Chhmar Ramsar Site, Tonle Sap Great Lake

From 17 to 20 July 2012, MWD/IUCN Cambodia office provided technical and financial support to the Department of Wetlands and Coastal Zones (DWCZ) of the Ministry of Environment (MoE) to organize a capacity development training course on Ranger-Based Data Collection (RBDC) for MoE local rangers who are working based at Boeung Chhmar Ramsar Site (BCRS) of the Tonle Sap Biosphere Reserve, Tonle Sap Great Lake. > Read more


Capacity Development Training Course for Environmental Local Rangers at Boeung Chhmar Ramsar Site, Tonle Sap Great Lake

Community Water Dialogues: Creating a platform for community participation in flood and water Management

Over the next year the Thailand National Working Group (NWG), Mekong Water Dialogues will be conducting Community Water Dialogues (CWD) throughout Thailand. CWD will establish a platform for local communities to contribute to flood and water management in Thailand. > Read


Members of the Thailand National Working Group discussing the impacts of dredging in Ranong, Thailand

Losing the Thai Water Onion: A community’s fight to stop dredging and protect their ecosystem

On the 12 of December 2012, the Thailand National Working Group, Mekong Water Dialogues, visited Ranong Province in the South of Thailand to talk to local communities and to witness, first hand, the impacts of dredging on the local ecosystem and communities. > Read


Water onion, Ranong Province, Thailand

Freshwater species in Indo-Burma region under threat

An assessment of 2,515 described freshwater species in the Indo-Burma region by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and partners has revealed that 13% of these species are threatened with extinction. The report comes at a time when large scale hydrological development is underway, or is proposed, throughout this region which is known for its exceptionally high diversity of freshwater species > Read more


catlocarpio siamensis

From River to Table: the job-creating power of fish

Here in Southeast Asia, customers are used to having their pick of live fish from big bowls out in front of the restaurant before dinner, with everything from long and skinny, eel-y looking fish to big catfish available to be stuffed with lemongrass and grilled. And this is in addition to the seemingly-endless piles of powerful-smelling dried and salted fish available in any market in the region > Read more



Fish seller at the market in Stung Treng, Cambodia

Mekong River Development Needs Greater Transparency

New film “Mekong” explores the dynamics of hyrdropower up and down one of the world’s great rivers and takes a balanced views of sensitive’ topics. > Read more


Mekong film screening at Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand

Mekong: A River, its people and Big Dams

Dam building is a complicated and messy business. The Mekong region exemplifies the contradictions, problems and concerns that different groups hold. More than 140 dams are planned for the lower Mekong Basin and many are being built quickly as investment pours in. > Read the Water Channel Blog


Mekong river

IUCN presented awards to winners of Goethe-Institut's SEADocs

SEADocs – The Southeast Asian Student Documentary Award is a competition to encourage the art of documentary filmmaking in the region as a platform to engage with pressing social and environmental issues. Read


Robert Mather, Head of IUCN Southeast Asia Group presented the award to the first place winner of Southeast Asia Student Documentary Film (SEADocs), Mr Polen Ly from Cambodia. His winning short film is Gone with the Water

Mekong film watched by the Mekong river

On the 7-8 December 2012, MWD joinned the Chiang Khan Short Films Festival organised by Thai Public Broadcasting Service (Thai PBS). This aimed to present key pressing issues in the Chiang Khan community through the form of short films and to encourage wider public debates. > Read


Robert Mather at the Thai PBS Short Film Screening in Chiang Khan, Loei, Thailand, on 7 December 2012
Website initiated to support the documentary film "Mekong" which examines the issues of hydropower development and its impact on the Mekong citizen's lives. Filmed in four countries, and produced in 5 languages, it includes footages of China's Mekong (Lancang) dams, as well as on-site footage of the controversial Xayaburi dam in Laos.


Mekong film cover

Case study - IUCN's Ecosystem-based Approach: Mae Chan Watershed in Northern Thailand

The Mae Chan watershed sits on Thailand’s far northern border with Myanmar and Lao PDR, in the province of Chiang Rai. Covering an area of roughly 1,200 km2, and once clothed in evergreen forest, the watershed drains into the Mekong River at Chiang Saen, opposite Bokeo province in Lao PDR. 
> Download

Case study: IUCN's Ecosystem-based Approach: Mae Chan Watershed in Northern Thailand (2012)

The Status and Distribution of Freshwater Biodiversity in Indo-Burma

Complied by D.J. Allen, K.G. Smith, and W.R.T. Darwall. This is aimed to address this knowledge gap and present the most up-to-date information on the distribution and extinction risk of freshwater species in all inland water ecosystems across the Indo-Burma hotspot, and where appropriate, the
reasons behind their declining status.

The Status and Distribution of Freshwater Biodiversity in Indo-burma

Journey to improve Environmental Press Professionalism

A training report on improving capacity of Vietnamese journalists to cover the stories of coastal ecosystem, forest and REDD+. A series of training was organised by IUCN Viet Nam, CIFOR and Towards Transparency Organisation.
> Download


Journey to improve Environmental Press Professionalism

The 6 Steps to Tai Ban Research (in Thai)
Co-published by Living River Siam and IUCN's MWD.

Conserving Biodiversity and Sustainable Livelihoods along the Mekong River in Luang Phrabang, Xayabouri and Vientiane Provinces, Laos
A power point presentation by Raphael Glemet, Water and Wetland Coordinator, IUCN Lao PDR, on 22nd August 2012, at Foreign Correspondent Clubs of Thailand, Bangkok. 
> Download 

MWD presentation at the workshop organised by the Embassy of Finland, on the 9th September, during IUCN World Conservation Congress in Jeju, South Korea by Robert Mather, MWD Project Manager and Head of IUCN Southeast Asia
> Download

Photos from the Mekong Film screening and panel discussion at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand
, 27 November 2012
> See photos

Greater Mekong Subregion Atlas of the Environment‏
This second edition of the Atlas offers a unique overview of the exquisite beauty and diversity of the Greater Mekong Subregion’s natural environment.
> Download
Audio: About the Mekong film (in Thai)
by Robert Mather, Head of IUCN Southeast Asia Group, given at a Mekong film screening and panel discussion at Kasetsart University, 19 December 2012.
> Listen


6 Steps of Tai Baan Research

Deltas Conference 2013
19-23 May 2013
Ho Chi Minh City, Viet Nam

Mekong Week in Washington
22-29 March
Washington DC, USA
Mekong film screening at the Ecological Film Festival and more
Mekongcitizen website

MWD Project Steering Committee Meeting

5 April 2013
Ho Chi Minh City, Viet Nam


3-14 March 2013
Bangkok, Thailand

Mekong Environment Symposium

5-7 March 2013
Ho Chi Minh City, Viet Nam

World Wetlands Day
2 February 2013
Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand and Viet Nam

MRC Donor Meeting and MRC Council Meeting
16-17 January 2013
Luang Prabang, Lao PDR
MRC website

View previous events in 2012

Water pots in Myanmar (2012)

In the Mekong, it’s dam if you do, dam if you don’t
Thomson Reuters AlertNet, 29 November 2012

Will Burma's forests survive as the country opens its doors to the world?

The Guardian, 15 November 2012

Climate Conversations - A healthy watershed means a happy farmer
Reuters AlertNet, 12 November 2012

Mekong 'hydro diplomacy' falling short
Bangkok Post, 11 November 2012

Laos becomes model for managing Ramsar sites
Vientiane Times, 9 November 2012

Use 'hydro-diplomacy' to avert future water conflict - experts
Reuters AlertNet, 31 October 2012

Study Damns Mekong Dams
Inter Press Service, 28 August 2012

Regional dams threat to fish
Eco-Business, 25 August 2012 (and The Phnom Penh Post)

Mekong Giant Catfish: Freshwater Species of the Week
National Geographic website, 24 August 2012

Report Warns of Declining Biodiversity in SE Asia
Voice of America, 23 August 2012

Ðông Nam Á đối mặt với nguy cơ suy thoái đa dạng sinh học
Voice of America, Vietnamese Service, 23 August 2012

Dams will impact Mekong River's biodiversity, says report
ABC Radio Australia, 23 August 2012

Lao people are concerned about the impacts from dams (in Lao)
Radio Free Asia, Lao Service, 23 August 2012

Freshwater species threatened in Southeast Asia
ABC Radio Australia, 22 August 2012

The Flood Controller
Southeast Asia GLOBE, 5 August 2012

Raphael Glemet, Water and Wetland Coordinator, IUCN Lao PDR, was interviewed by Radio Free Asia.

Free online course on sustainability and more

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school kids in Viet Nam

Earthrights School Mekong calls for application

This is a seven month-long training program focuses on the impacts of large-scale infrastructure projects, particularly hydropower dams, and how citizens are engaged in advocating for more equitable development in the Mekong region. It's for civil society advocates from the Mekong Region (China, Burma, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam) who are working on environmental and human rights issues. Apply by 1st February 2013. > Read more


Earthrights International

The 16th International River Symposium calls for abstract

The theme for 2013 is "River: Linking-water-energy-food". This event will be held during 23-26 September 2013, in Brisbane, Australia. The online submission system will open on 25 January and will close on 1 March. Proceedings from the 15th symposium are also available on the website. > Read more


The 16th International River Symposium, 23-26 September 2013, Brisbane, Australia
Logos of the Mekong Water Dialogues and Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland.

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.

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