Large-scale dams and development projects affect fishers and farmers throughout the Lower Mekong Basin—but social and economic data about the impacts is often unavailable. To counter this issue, socio-economists from the Mekong region have formed a consortium to promote sharing of data on livelihoods and wellbeing, especially from ‘hotspots’ where traditional livelihoods have been affected. 

The Sustainable Infrastructure Partnership (SIP) hosted the First Technical Consultation of Socio-Economic Data Experts from September 16-17, 2019 as the first step in a three-year capacity-building program to improve accessibility and management of socio-economic data.  

“Many socio-economic studies have been done, but data often remains fragmented,” said Suparerk Janprasart, SIP program manager. “Large-scale water infrastructure projects, land-use changes, and the impacts of climate change mean that it’s even more critical now for data to be available to guide decision making.”

The technical consultation involved 30 participants from Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam, many from key positions in government and international organizations. Participants represented national statistical organizations, natural resource management agencies, universities, development partners and regional organizations. Regional participants included the Asian Disaster Preparedness Center, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO), the German development agency GIZ, and the Mekong River Commission Secretariat. 

Key issues for the socio-economists are the monitoring of fish catches in ‘hotspots’ affected by upstream dams. They also highlighted the need for guidelines on transboundary impact assessment. 

Participants observed that data from some studies on the impacts of water-related infrastructure are not publicly available and require special permission to access. At the close of the two-day Bangkok meeting, At the close of the two-day meeting in Bangkok, they highlighted issues for further study and data analysis, including:

  • the impacts of Mekong mainstream dams on communities between Chiang Rai province in Thailand and Bokeo province in Lao PDR; 
  • the effects of flooding and salinity intrusion on the Mekong Delta in Vietnam; and 
  • ways to promote sustainable fishing on the Tonle Sap, Cambodia. 

Their newly-formed Mekong Socio-economic Data Experts Consortium plans to survey and compile existing socio-economic data relevant to understanding the impacts of large-scale water infrastructure, and to work towards an online open data platform by 2023.