Basin Development Strategy

This Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM)-based Basin Development Strategy (BDS) sets out how water and related resources of the Mekong River Basin should be utilised, managed and conserved over the period 2021-2030 from the perspectives of the Lower Mekong River Basin countries of Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand and Viet Nam, in-line with their commitment to the Agreement on the Cooperation for the Sustainable Development of the Mekong River Basin (the 1995 Mekong Agreement). The BDS is a basin-wide strategy whose main purpose is to guide all actors involved in Mekong water-related issues towards achieving improvements in the environmental, social and economic state of the Mekong River Basin, which is periodically recorded in the State of Basin Report (SOBR). The Strategy contributes to a wider adaptive planning process linking regional and national plans towards realising the common vision of an economically prosperous, socially just, environmentally sound, and climate resilient Mekong River Basin.

The Strategy:

  • Aligns cooperative basin management and development to contribute to the achievement of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals by 2030;
  • Outlines opportunities to promote sustainable development and strengthen operational management in the basin, and thereby increase regional and national benefits;
  • Sets medium term strategic priorities for all relevant actors in the basin to strengthen basin management and ensure implementation of the opportunities will contribute to optimal and sustainable development pathways;
  • Defines Outcomes and Outputs towards 2030 to address the basin-wide strategic priorities. The BDS 2021-2030 is designed for implementation by all national and regional stakeholders, including government agencies, private developers, regional mechanisms and organisations (through their own strategies, plans and programmes), development partners, scientific and advisory institutes, civil society organisations and others. The MRC will implement a substantial part of the Strategy’s strategic priorities itself through its five-year Strategic Plan.

The new strategy focuses on:

  • More proactive regional planning, which involves moving beyond the set of infrastructure projects that the basin countries are currently planning to identify new projects for consideration by countries in future updates to national plans that could increase synergies and reduce trade-offs and vulnerabilities at both the basin and national levels, and provide a comprehensive response to climate change and related water security challenges;
  • Coordination of basin operational management, including coordination of operations of dams and other water infrastructure where there may be transboundary effects, including for river flow management, sediment management, ecosystem services, management of emergencies, and coordination of the design and management of hydropower cascades;
  • Modernisation of data and information acquisition, processing and sharing by consolidating and upgrading water-related monitoring, data/information management, and modelling and information systems to a level and disaggregation that is fit-for-purpose for proactive regional planning and operational basin management, and getting information and knowledge to key stakeholders and the publics;
  • More integrated Mekong-Lancang management arrangements including by setting up joint basin expert groups to oversee and direct the work streams in the above areas, and by increasing data sharing and cooperation between the two regional water cooperation platforms: MRC and MLC Water.

Approach to Strategy

Guided by Heads of States Declarations. The BDS 2021-2030 is guided by the Siem Reap Declaration of the Third MRC Summit ‘One Mekong One Spirit’ on 5 April 2018, as well as the Phnom Penh Declaration of the Second Mekong-Lancang Cooperation Leaders’ Meeting ‘Our River of Peace and Sustainable Development’ on 10 January 2018. The Strategy integrates the Sustainable Development Goals relevant to water resources management and internalizes a ‘gender and vulnerability’ approach to account for intersectional inequity and the different dimensions of vulnerability.

The Strategy updating forms a key step in the implementation of the strategic planning cycle facilitated by the MRC. The updated Strategy builds on the experience gained during the preparation and implementation of the BDS 2016-2020, and further considers:

  • The progress made in implementing the strategic priorities of BDS 2016-2020 and lessons learned;
  • The 2018 State of Basin Report (SOBR), which identifies the key issues the BDS should address and measures the effectiveness of its implementation;
  • The national perspectives of basin countries and regional perspectives of relevant regional organisations;
  • Changes in national plans for the development and management of water related resources;
  • Recent scenario assessments, including the Council Study, which provides an outlook to future benefits, impacts and risks of current national plans;
  • Regional or basin-wide sector strategies for hydropower, navigation, environment, fisheries, climate change adaptation, drought management, and studies on flood risk reduction in the delta;
  • A review of water-related strategies and plans of regional organizations, initiatives and programmes, and the mapping of priority areas relevant to achieving the Outcomes of the BDS.

See more on the session Basin issues, challeneges and risks

Mekong Basin strategic planning cycle

This Strategy has been prepared with contributions and reviews from each MRC Member Country’s National Mekong Committee Secretariat (NMCS) and national line/implementing agencies; and engagement of MRC Dialogue Partners (China and Myanmar); MLC Water; relevant regional organizations, initiatives and programmes such as ASEAN, GMS and others; private sector and development partners; and broader stakeholders including civil society organizations. The final version of the updated BDS has been agreed by senior government officials from the Member Countries prior to consideration and approval by the Ministers in the MRC Council on behalf of their respective Governments.

Strategic Plan

This Mekong River Commission Strategic Plan (MRC SP) for 2021-2025 is a unified corporate plan that is fully integrated with the Basin Development Strategy (BDS) 2021-2030 through the implementation of the strategic basin planning cycle. A key characteristic of the cycle is the linkage between the five-yearly State of Basin Report (SOBR) and the BDS, with the former recording and evaluating the development and management impacts (positive and negative) within the Mekong River Basin, and the latter aimed at the improvement of the conditions in the basin in the 5 dimensions of the Mekong River Basin Indicator Framework (MRB-IF): environment, social, economic, climate change, and cooperation.

The role of the MRC is changing. In parallel with the development trajectory of the Mekong River Basin, the role of the MRC is changing from cooperation primarily on knowledge acquisition and sharing towards comprehensive cooperation on water resources development and management across the entire Mekong River Basin.

This SP will support this shift in focus by guiding the implementation of:

  • More proactive regional planning
  • Coordinated basin management operations
  • Modernisation of data and information acquisition, processing and sharing
  • More integrated Mekong-Lancang management arrangements.

MRC’s Core Functions. MRC will work in the above 4 areas by undertaking its core functions which provide guidance for what the MRC can do (in terms of activities, deliverables) in implementing the BDS (Figure 8.1). As defined in the Roadmap, the MRC’s core functions include: (i) corporate services functions, (ii) core river basin management functions (CRBMFs), and (iii) consulting and advisory services functions. Corporate services functions include administration and management, facilitating dialogue and coordination, and reporting and dissemination.

The CRBMFs are: CRBMF 1: Data acquisition, exchange and monitoring CRBMF 2: Analysis, modelling and assessment CRBMF 3: Planning support CRBMF 4: Forecasting, warning and emergency response CRBMF 5: Implementing MRC Procedures