Siem Reap, Cambodia, 11-12 August 2016
The Lower Mekong Policy Forum on Environment, Agriculture, and Livelihoods is be held at the Sokha Ankhor Hotel in Siem Reap, Cambodia, August 11-12. Senior government officials, researchers, practitioners, civil society representatives, and members of the business community will participate. The Forum is honored to host HE. Mr. Mam Amnot, Secretary of State, Vice Minister for Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries of the Royal Government of Cambodia, and Mr. Ezra Simon, Social Development Unit Chief of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). It is being jointly organized by the Lower Mekong Public Policy Initiative, housed at the Fulbright Economics Teaching Program, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, the Cambodia Development Resource Institute, Phnom Penh, Cambodia, and the Sustainable Mekong Research Network (SUMERNET), Bangkok, Thailand. The Forum is funded by USAID.
The first session of the LMPPI conference focused on transboundary water issues in the Lower Mekong region. Since 1990, power generation demand from countries along the Mekong River has increased dramatically, leading to a marked increase in hydropower dam construction. This development, as the speakers in this session noted, has had both beneficial and deleterious effects on the lives of people who depend on it, and has created divergent incentives for various stakeholders.
The speakers in this session approached these geopolitical concerns from differing perspectives. Dr. Pham Ko Kim Hang of Massey University used a game-theory framework to show that China, which controls much of the upstream flow of the Mekong, could be encouraged to cooperate with the Lower Mekong countries if trade and water issues are jointly negotiated. Jalel Sager of UC Berekely and his colleagues conducted mathematical models of the impact of dam construction in Laos to determine that although hydropower will continue to be a source of revenue for Laos, pursuing targeted alternative energy options is warranted, especially when taking into consideration negative externalities from hydropower. Dr. Carl Middleton spoke about the political and economic implications of “watersheds” and “powersheds,” and how interests between water usage and power generation has created a new era of hydropolitics in the region.
A panel discussion of experts from Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Malaysia later agreed that although there are significant political obstacles, greater institutional linkages and cooperation among countries (e.g. legitimate dispute resolution mechanisms) will be fundamental for achieving successful outcomes.
We will continue to update on the Forum discussion.