The role of science and local knowledge in tackling the threats facing Mekong ecosystems and communities

A webinar by Internews’ Earth Journalism Network (EJN) and the Sustainable Mekong Research Network (SUMERNET)

28 October 2020 @ 13:00 in Bangkok

The Mekong River Basin is a source of food and livelihood for around 70 million people living in the Mekong region and beyond. The basin’s streams, tributaries, wetlands and natural ecosystems have undergone massive changes in recent decades, largely due to the rapid expansion of infrastructure projects on the river and its tributaries, land-use change, and extreme flooding and drought.

While development has produced economic growth in countries bordering the river, the environmental impacts combined with climate change have damaged many of the basin’s complex natural ecosystems and habitats, disrupting seasonal water flows, sedimentation, and fish migrations.

These changes pose a serious threat to the Mekong’s fish stock – one of the richest in the world – and, in turn, to the livelihoods of many, especially the poorest, who depend on them for survival.

There is a serious concern that the ever-expanding hydropower dams, sand mining, deforestation and other unchecked exploitation of the basin for economic growth will lead to the eventual demise of the Mekong River itself.

There are contested narratives about who is to blame, what science and information is needed, and what information is considered credible. Questions also remain about the sharing of scientific data and how this can help with the holistic management of the transboundary basin.

This webinar will explore the growing debates around the impacts of hydropower and other economic activities in the Mekong River Basin and whether the waterway, its ecology and the people whose lives and cultures depend upon them can absorb these human interventions without disruption to the system’s delicate social and ecological balance.

In this webinar, we will:

  1. Share perspectives among scientific experts, the Mekong River Commission and local community representatives about what current knowledge tells us about the health of the Mekong River and its future.
  2. Identify how scientific experts, community groups and the media can work together to help policymakers make better-informed management decisions.
  3. Explore the changes needed to safeguard the health of the Mekong ecosystems and the communities that depend on them through a more nature- and people-centered approach that embraces regional cooperation.


  • Chea Seila – Project Manager and Coordinator, Wonders of the Mekong Project, Cambodia
  • Dr. Thanapon Piman – Senior Research Fellow, Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) Asia
  • Dr. Anoulak Kittikhoun – Chief Strategy and Partnership Officer, Mekong River Commission (MRC)

Moderated by Dr. Louis Lebel – Director, Unit for Social and Environmental Research, Faculty of Social Science, Chiang Mai University

With an introduction by Rajesh Daniel, Communications, SEI Asia

Register here

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