This is a previous project site under CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems (WLE). For more information and current updates, visit the WLE website.

Home > Basin > Mekong > Multi-scale water governance in the Mekong Basin (PN50)

Full Project Title: Enhancing multi-scale Mekong water governance (PN50)


In the Mekong River Basin, under-scrutinized and over simplified policy narratives support many water governance issues. In fisheries, for example, there is an established narrative of crisis for the region’s fisheries that underpins much policy, research and debate. Although evidence about the potential adverse impacts of infrastructure such as dams on valued fisheries is increasingly acknowledged, it has not changed development priorities.

The project PN50 was a flagship activity of the Mekong Program on Water, Environment Resilience (M-POWER) network. The goal of helping improve livelihood security, human and ecosystem health in the Mekong Region through democratizing water governance was pursued through critical research and direct engagement with stakeholders involved in managing floods, irrigation, hydropower, watersheds, fisheries and urban water works at multiple scales.

Research Highlights

Research highlights

  • Across multi-level sectors and domains of water policy research, M-POWER studies highlighted several key tensions in governance scholarship with high practical relevance.
  • Public participation programs are not a panacea. Governments and other actors in the Mekong Region often take an instrumental approach to participation and as a consequence being included can be a cost not a benefit.
  • Many water projects continue to be evaluated and promoted in terms of their benefits with insufficient attention given to their costs, burdens or risks. The way assessment and consultation processes are designed and implemented has implications for their credibility, legitimacy and saliency, and ultimately public acceptance.
  • Discourse and policy narratives play an important role in shaping and justifying decisions. Unpacking these lines of reasoning to reveal faulty assumptions, vested interests and hidden adverse impacts has become a key role for engaged researchers in the Mekong region.
Project Outcomes

Project outcomes

  • In the Mekong Region the pathways to influence are diverse and certainly do not just depend on expert advice or rationale comparison of policy options.
  • In strengthening local representation, there has been some progress with at least acknowledgement of the value of local inputs into planning and implementation increasingly recognized by central government agencies.
  • Enhancing the constructive interplay between institutions both horizontally and vertically has shown the important roles for engaged scholarship such as M-POWER network to help link non-state and state actors at various levels.
  • Changes in water- and land-use are already impacting on seasonality of flows in many basins and prospects are that climate change will further compound these changes. Institutions and strategies for dealing with uncertainty are under-developed in the Mekong Region even under current conditions. Knowledge and policy networks like M-POWER, with rapid and flexible response capacity, are crucial for dealing with growing uncertainties.
Publications and Outputs

To view all outputs from project PN50 visit our document repository.

Selected publications and outputs

Journal articles

  1. Foran, T., P. T. du Pont, P. Parinya, and N. Phumaraphand. 2010. Securing energy efficiency as a high priority: scenarios for common appliance electricity consumption in Thailand. Energy Efficiency DOI10.1007/s12053-009-9073-7.
  2. Friend, R. M., and Blake, D. J. H. 2009. Negotiating trade-offs in dam development in the Mekong – implications for fisheries and fishery-based livelihoods. Water Policy, 11 (1): 13-30.
  3. Jianchu, X., Y. Yang, J. Fox, and X. Yang. 2007. Forest transition, its causes and environmental consequences: An empirical evidence from Yunnan of Southwest China. Tropical Ecology 48(2): 1-14.
  4. Lebel, L., Daniel, R. 2009. The governance of ecosystem services from tropical upland watersheds. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability 1:61-68.
  5. Lebel, L., Daniel, R, Badenoch N, Garden P, Imamura M. 2008. A multi-level perspective on conserving with communities: experiences from upper tributary watersheds in montane mainland southeast Asia. International Journal of the Commons, 2 (1):127-154.
  6. Ma X., J.C. Xu, J. Qian. 2008. Water resource management in a middle mountain watershed. Mountain Research and Development, 28(3/4):286-291.
  7. Manuta, J., S. Khrutmuang, D. Huaisai, and L. Lebel. 2006. Institutionalized incapacities and practice in flood disaster management in Thailand. Science and Culture 72:10-22.

Book chapters

  1. Dore, J. 2007. Multi-stakeholder platforms (MSPS): unfulfilled potential. Pages 197-226 in L. Lebel, J. Dore, R. Daniel, and Y. Koma, editors. Democratizing water governance in the Mekong region. Mekong Press, Chiang Mai.
  2. Käkönen, M. and Hirsch, P. 2009. The antipolitics of Mekong knowledge production. In Molle, F.; Foran, T. and Käkönen, M. (eds), Contested Waterscapes in the Mekong Region: Hydropower, Livelihoods and Governance, pp. 333-365. London: Earthscan.


  1. ‘The Mekong: Grounds of Plenty’. 2010. International Rivers, Unit for Social and Environmental Research, Fisheries Action Coalition Team (FACT), Center for Water Resources Conservation and Development (WARECOD).
  2. ‘What is water politics?’ 2009. Unit for Social and Environmental Research, Chiang Mai University, Chiang Mai.
Final Report
Project Partners

Project partners


Project Lead

Project lead


For more information on Phase 1 outputs please contact Udana Ariyawansa.