Information on groundwater issues lacking on the Lower Mekong Basin
On 28th of September, IUCN Regional office, Bangkok under the aegis of its Water and Wetlands Programme organized the first meeting on groundwater management in the Lower Mekong Region. One key factor that emerged from the discussion is the lack of detailed information and thorough knowledge on groundwater management and development in the Lower Mekong basin consisting of Cambodia, Lao, Thailand and Vietnam. There are no statistics or studies that could be identified on usage, quantity, quality and demand. On water quality, a UNICEF survey in 2005 found the presence of arsenic in the groundwaters of Cambodia's Mekong region. There have also been reports of excessive exploitation of groundwater in the Mekong Delta as reported by Water Resources University based in Ho Chi Minh City. Ganesh Pangare, the regional coordinator for water and wetlands programme and convener of the meeting stated “groundwater in the lower Mekong region is extensively used for irrigation and other purposes but overall there is no systematic understanding of this resource base and its use; hence this meeting is to bring organizations in the region to collaborate on this issue.”
Seven organizations working on the lower Mekong river basin participated in the deliberations. These include the Mekong River Commission (MRC), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), International Water Management Institute (IWMI), Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES), United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP), Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the hosts IUCN.
Among the participating partner organizations, MRC had conducted some studies on groundwater issues and presented its findings on the geological strata in the river basin. IUCN presented about its upcoming global toolkit termed SPRING that will be a handy guide on groundwater management issues. FAO talked about potential research areas and explore possibilities of integrating groundwater management in irrigation. IWMI presented about their work in India and using the learnings for the Mekong delta. IGES talked about their work in the region and are exploring the option of acting as a knowledge hub on groundwater. UNESCAP will be organizing the First Asia-Pacific Coastal Aquifer Management Meeting from December 9th to 11th in Bangkok. ADB has also shown interest for further participating in future work on groundwater in the region.
Finally it was decided that due to the lack of adequate information on groundwater in the lower Mekong region, a situational analysis document on the topic is required. Apart from the base document, partner organizations are exploring opportunities to build network, create awareness, involve the different Lower Mekong country governments and works towards capacity and skill building. The main objective of the meeting was to explore options and build consensus among different partner organizations for working on the subject of groundwater on the Lower Mekong Basin.