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Enhancing Civil Society Capacities to Work on Biodiversity, Communities, and Livelihoods in Regional Networks across Major Tributaries in the Lower Mekong River Basin

■Project Location
■Advocacy and Media cover

Project Location

Ratanakiri and Stung Treng Provinces in Cambodia, Champasak Province in Lao PDR, and Ubon Ratchathani, Sisaket, and Surin Provinces in Thailand


The flow of the Mekong River and its tributaries has nourished the Mekong basin, providing abundant natural resources including water, fish, nutritious sediments, and rich forests. The basin has the world’s second greatest aquatic biodiversity, and the watershed including Tonle Sap Lake has served as the world’s largest inland water fishing ground. Food security of this region relies very heavily on freshwater fish.

However, due to overfishing and other reasons, such as mass use of water for industries, dredging, and pollution, the number of fish is decreasing. Moreover, dam construction over the past 30 years, not only the Chinese dams upstream on the mainstream of the Mekong but also the dams on tributaries in Laos, Vietnam, and Thailand, are bringing significant changes to the river flow. This is also inducing fish number decrease.

Unless some effort is made to enhance civil society capacities to work on biodiversity, communities, and livelihoods in regional networks across major tributaries in the Lower Mekong River Basin, a number of high-potential grassroots and other initiatives in the Mekong Region would remain relatively isolated, opportunities for cross-fertilization and enhancement would be missed, and the initiatives themselves might even become weakened. Scientific knowledge offered by academics and experts might not reach CSOs and communities who need them and can use them to bring about positive changes. Civil society would not be able to communicate their collective voice to policy/decision-makers, and more destructive development projects, hydropower dams in particular, would receive approval based on very imbalanced information and views. Hydropower dam projects would then become real threats to the Mekong Basin’s biodiversity and natural resources. Worse, if large populations living along the Mekong's major tributaries remain largely unaware of the high value of the Mekong’s natural environment and resources, they will not be able to play the role of utilizing and conserving them effectively. Instead, they might become impoverished and have no choice but to exploit biodiversity and natural resources in unsustainable ways. The Mekong River’s biodiversity would then be at greater risk.

Given this situation, we would like to strengthen exiting CSO networks domestically and regionally to maximize their potentialities to respond to conservation threats.


This project is expected to produce (1) more informed and collective CSO initiatives to respond to development threats and to work towards biodiversity conservation, built up from grassroots levels and coordinated across the Mekong Region; (2) enhanced CSO abilities to clearly communicate the value of the Mekong Basin's biodiversity and its links to local life and livelihoods. This will also ensure that local communities engage in active and lasting involvement with CSO networks and; (3) more informed and balanced decision-making over individual hydropower projects, including redesigning and installing mitigation measures. The project will also produce (4) much documentation on the Mekong River’s biodiversity and local livelihoods in multiple languages.

(1) Networking at the grassroots level

A field trip
A field trip to learn about alternatives was held in July 2015. During the field trip, residents affected by the Pak Mun Dam, where the fish conservation area is to be established, visited Siphandone and Ratanakiri Province and held exchanges of views with the residents in those areas. Cambodian NGO staff with an interest in the environmental and social impacts caused by dams also participated in the meeting in Ratanakiri. Views and impressions of the Thai residents on touring the Lao conservation project in the field were recorded on video. These will be used in documentary videos produced in the future.

Seminar: Reconsidering the development of the Mekong and its tributaries - Food Security and Rivers -
An international seminar was held in Thailand on 23 February, 2016. In this seminar, opportunities, alternatives, and obstacles to the protection of the Mekong Basin's biodiversity and natural resources were discussed. The seminar was attended by community representatives, CSOs, including those from China and Korea, academics, and the media.

>>Presentation at the seminar: Impacts of Dam Construction on the Mekong: The experience of the Mun River
Power Point

Mobile workshop
We sent a civil society team consisting of participants from Cambodia, Thailand, Korea and China to visit several spots in the region where the team shared the changes in and current status of the rivers, along with the measures taken at each spot for maintaining the fishery and ensuring food security. At the same time, impacts foreseen to the rivers due to upcoming dam constructions and factors such as climate change, population growth, etc., were discussed to consider conditions and methods to enable sustainable use of natural resources by the local residents.

Schedule: 23-29 February, 2016
Locations visited:
Thailand; Current state of the lower Mun River
Laos; Nature and people at Siphandone
Cambodia: the Sesan, Sekong and Srepok Rivers

 (2) Activities by local communities

■Creating a Community Resource Map
Drawing a map to show natural resources that the people rely on in Stung Treng Province, northeastern Cambodia. At Kbal Romeas Village and Sraekor Village, currently affected by the Lower Sesan 2 (LS2) Hydropower Dam.

Drawing a map to show natural resources

■Research with Local communities


DRAFT Introduction to Livelihoods in Kbal Romeas Village, Northeast Cambodia

Mekong Watch is working with Champasak TV station to produce and broadcast environmental documentary programs on local biodiversity and natural resources, especially fish species.

See: (4) Multiple-language documentation and visual resources

Report: To record fish migration and spawning behaviors, and to identify significant changes after the construction of the Pak Mun and Rasi Salai Dams

(3) Information on hydropower projects

  • Fact Sheet
    Rasi Salai Dam, Thailand
    Don Sahong Dam, Laos
    Lower Sesan 2 Dam, Cambodia

(4)Multiple-language documentation and visual resources

■Briefing Paper
Twenty Years of Tholathi Island—Factors in the Success of the Fish Conservation Area




Andeng Flower - Kbal Romeas Village
Fishing - Kbal Romeas Village
A Villager's Voice on the Lower Sesan 2 Dam; Andoung Meas District
A Villager's Voice on the Lower Sesan 2 Dam; Vernsai District (Part 1)
A Villager's Voice on the Lower Sesan 2 Dam; Vernsai District (Part 2)
Forest - Kbal Romeas Village Cambodia


If the Fish Change, the Food Changes (Lao with English subtitles)
The Pa Soy Has to Adapt (Lao with English subtitles)
One Year of the Islands of Siphandone (Lao)
Pa Suay hang luang (Lao)
Twenty years of Tholati Island (Lao)


Advocacy and Media cover

Recommendations on measures and alternatives to protect biodiversity, communities, and livelihoods are submitted in writing to Mekong governments, MRC, donors (in particular the Japanese government), and emerging donors on such occasions as MRC meetings (e.g., of the Joint Committee, Council, and development partners), as well as ASEAN and Japan-Mekong Summit meetings.

Bangkok Post Pak Moon dam still a dilemma 25 years on

25 ปี เขื่อนปากมูล:อาชญากรรมในเงาการพัฒนา (6 March 2016)

Thai PBS
จี้รัฐทบทวนโครงการผันน้ำโขง ระบุได้รับผลกระทบมานับสิบปีทั้งระบบนิเวศ-ความหลากหลายพันธุ์ปลา (23 February 2016)

"เขื่อนดอนสะโฮง" จุดชนวนความขัดแย้งในลุ่มแม่น้ำโขงตอนล่าง (7 March 2016)

ผลกระทบข้ามพรมแดน เขื่อนแม่น้ำโขงตอนล่าง (17 March 2016)

เสียงสะท้อนของชาวบ้านริมแม่น้ำโขงตอนล่างกับการสร้างเขื่อน (18 March 2016)

TNN 24
เขื่อนกั้นโขง กับวิถีชีวิตที่ต้องเปลี่ยน 1-3 (10 March 2016) (11 March 2016) (13 March 2016)

Supported by: Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (2014-2016), The McKnight Fundation (2011-) and Oxfam Australia (2011-)

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