MRC Aims to Develop ‘Centre of Excellence’ in Phnom Penh

AKP Phnom Penh, April 21, 2020 —

The Mekong River Commission (MRC) says it aims to transform its regional centre in Phnom Penh into “a centre of excellence” for managing floods and droughts.

At a meeting in Vietnam in April last year, senior officials from the four MRC member countries decided to expand the work of the Regional Flood Management and Mitigation Centre to include drought activities.

The senior water and environment officials also decided to rename the centre, located in Chak Angre Krom and now known as the Regional Flood and Drought Management Centre.

In a report released by the MRC Secretariat in Vientiane on Tuesday, the commission said it had started to “reinvigorate” data, information, modelling, forecasting, and communication systems for the Lower Mekong Basin.

“The improved system will be able to offer faster reactions to address emerging changes, such as sudden water releases from reservoirs in the Upper Basin, and to track the basin’s state and development,” it said.

“This will enable the MRC to provide accurate up-to-date information to the public and decision-makers as quickly as possible.”

The MRC said it had already engaged international partners to pursue the initiative including Australia, China, Japan, South Korea and the United States.

In addition, the MRC has started “advancing its flood and drought monitoring and forecasting functions,” the report said. The aim is to help MRC member countries — Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam — “effectively tackle flood and drought risks for vulnerable communities.”

As part of this work, the MRC aims to “transform its Regional Flood and Drought Management Centre … into a centre of excellence in providing faster and more accurate flood and drought forecasting and early warning,” the report said.

“The upgraded centre will make available improved public information on flood and drought with the use of advanced technologies, so that local communities and governments are timely informed, and that damages can be reduced in time of danger.

“It will also help to facilitate an integration of flood and drought management functions to provide a longer lead-time and better accuracy of forecasting.”

In a separate statement released in Vientiane Tuesday, Dr An Pich Hatda, chief executive at the MRC Secretariat, stressed the “paramount” need for all Mekong countries to “strike a balance between the benefits of development, social justice, and environmental sustainability.”

“A transparent data sharing arrangement on how water and related infrastructures are operated will help everyone manage risks and avoid misperception,” he said.

Regarding a joint study with the Lancang-Mekong Water Resources Cooperation Centre in China, the report said findings would provide recommendations for “improved data and information sharing” between MRC members and China.

Recommendations are also expected to cover “clear communication protocols, and coordinated operations of reservoirs” in China and MRC member countries.

“These actions will ensure a more effective response to current and future droughts and water flow issues,” the report said.

Announced in December, the joint study aims to identify the causes and impacts of the drought and record low flows in the Mekong last year.

By Sao Da