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Harnessing Technology to Manage Flood, Drought Risks in Lower Mekong Basin

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Increased flooding and drought continue to threaten the Lower Mekong region.

To help governments and communities manage extreme weather conditions, the Mekong River Commission (MRC) and its partners are employing novel information and communication technology.


The MRC and the Korea Development Institute (KDI) initiated a joint research initiative earlier this year as part of the 2020-2021 Knowledge Sharing Programme (KSP). The project's goal is to show how high-tech solutions may help Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand, and Vietnam reduce flood and drought damage. It improves mitigation methods, reaction plans, and information distribution plans by utilizing cutting-edge satellite technology, artificial intelligence (AI), and big data.


“Changes in the hydrological cycle caused by rising global temperatures and development activities can bring stronger and longer drought and flood to many parts of the world, and the Lower Mekong is no exception,” said An Pich Hatda, CEO of the MRC Secretariat, at a workshop to wrap up the 2020-2021 KSP on Monday.

“To promote more effective action in responding to these threats, countries must prioritize, scale up their response mechanisms, and take advantage of cutting-edge technologies,” he added.


Officials from the four Lower Mekong Basin countries, as well as Korean specialists, met for the final reporting session to examine the project's findings and policy recommendations.

The policy paper suggests that by evaluating flood and drought-prone areas, map-based flood and drought monitoring systems be developed. These countermeasures employ artificial intelligence, radar, and satellites as early-warning systems with built-in triggers to assist decision-making, such as declaring a flood or drought. These technologies can also capture high-quality hydro-meteorological data for an integrated flood and drought management plan across the basin.


For successful information sharing and dissemination, the paper recommends increasing real-time monitoring systems and standardizing quality control of collected data.

The collaborative MRC-KDI program has yielded more than just these recommendations. The two organizations have developed a network of professionals who can provide guidance and share information throughout the project. The two organizations have received significant insights and a greater grasp of crucial challenges as a result of their close collaboration.


Dr. Chin Young Gon, Senior Advisor to the 2020–2021 KSP-MRC, said, "This is a fantastic example of promoting knowledge transfer, which is a distinctive element of Korea's approach to regional development, and we desire to engage with the MRC in flood and drought management through future KSP."


The KSP 2020-2021 is the second of its sort to be undertaken jointly by the MRC and the KDI, with funding from the Korean government. As part of a Mekong-Korea Cooperation agreement, the first KSP was launched in 2017. The agreement allowed the two parties to work together on hydropower production, management, and river basin planning.


Following today's debate, Mekong and Korean experts will finish the policy report and determine the best way to put the report's suggestions into action.


Floods and droughts continue to be major issues in the Mekong region, wreaking more havoc and killing more people than any other natural calamity. The cost of floods alone is USD 70 million each year. These damages have far-reaching ecological consequences for the communities and industries that are affected. According to recent MRC studies, these tendencies will continue in the future decades, necessitating concerted measures to solve the issues.


The MRC is a key player in coordinating flood and drought mitigation initiatives across the basin, while also advocating a collaborative approach that benefits its four member countries.


The MRC has supplied lower Mekong countries with a variety of information, forecasts, and decision-support tools to help them better prepare for, monitor, and respond to flood and drought risks in recent decades. It is actively aiming to strengthen forecasting systems and capability in order to improve lead times, accuracy, and distribution while also increasing climate change resistance.


These are some of the top strategic targets in the new MRC Basin Development Strategy 2021–2030 and Strategic Plan 2021–2025 for enhancing resilience to climate threats, extreme floods, and drought. The KSP will help to achieve the strategic objectives.

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