Mekong Dam Monitor

The Mekong Dam Monitor uses remote sensing processes to provide unparalleled, near-real time reporting on reservoir and river conditions to communities and decision makers in the Mekong Basin.

By

Stimson Center Southeast Asia Program

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Social causes

Beneficiaries

SDGs covered

Endorsed by

MacArthur Foundation

MacArthur Foundation supports creative people, effective institutions, and influential networks building a more just, verdant, and peaceful world.

Market of Implementation

  • Cambodia
  • , China
  • , Laos
  • , Thailand
  • , Vietnam

Problem

11 megadams are operational on China’s upstream portions of the Mekong River with a cumulative water storage capacity of more than 40 cubic kilometers. The effects of China’s dam operation have severely altered the Mekong’s hydrological cycle, incurred economic costs to downstream stakeholders, and eroded ecological cycles which contribute to fisheries and agriculture. Prior to the launch of the Mekong Dam Monitor in December 2020, operational knowledge of the 11-dam cascade, data surrounding the conditions of upstream reservoirs and flow information was not been shared with downstream stakeholders. This withholding of data has resulted in suboptimal decisions downstream and reduced the transboundary river governance capacity of Lower Mekong stakeholders. The Mekong Dam Monitor seeks to reduce the upstream accountability gap, produce behavioral change throughout the Mekong Basin, and improve downstream environmental outcomes.

Solution

Amount of Carbon Dioxide Equivalent Avoided/Sequestered

NA

Means of Measurement

NA

Project’s Environment & Climate Capability

Climate Risk Reduction, Climate Scenarios and Impact Research, Coordination on Climate Change Measures and Activities Across Relevant Actors, Education and Training and Awareness on Climate Change, Policy and Administrative Management for Climate Change
Climate patterns in the Mekong Basin are shifting with an increased persistence of drought in both the Mekong's dry season and wet season over the past five years. The Mekong's monsoon season is getting shorter delivering a stunted monsoon pulse which used to drive fisheries and agricultural productivity throughout Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam. In Vietnam's Mekong Delta, rising sea levels cause salinity intrusion to penetrate more deeply on a daily and yearly basis. Upstream dams are operated in a way that exacerbates these early onset climate effects. Near-real time monitoring of previously un-monitored dams throughout the Mekong Basin can show both how these dams exacerbate conditions. More importantly, the data can be used to inform stakeholders throughout the basin as to how existing dams can be operated to reduce and mitigate these climate impacts. Timely notification via social media communications on anomalies and sudden operational changes to dams benefits subsistence fishers and farmers, many of whom are ethnic minorities and/or live in impoverished conditions along the river's course. The Mekong Dam Monitor provides a view of water availability week to week across all major dams in the Mekong Basin.

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