Environment Programme

The Mekong’s water gives life to the people and ecosystems of the Lower Mekong Basin.

Although the quality of water and related resources in the basin is currently good, experts have particular concerns. Among them is the high nutrient concentration in the Mekong Delta, which can diminish soil quality. Other parts of the Mekong are progressively at risk of environmental degradation as the river is faced with rapid industrialisation and the impacts of climate change.

During the strategic cycle 2011-2015, the Mekong River Commission’s Environment Programme worked to support cooperation among MRC Member Countries to secure a balance between economic development, environmental protection and social sustainability within the Mekong region.

In response to the Mekong’s changing environment, the Programme worked to ensure that basin management and development is guided by up to date environmental and social knowledge. It strived for more efficient environmental management cooperation. For example, it facilitated the implementation of regional Procedures for Water Quality to maintain the river’s water quality.

Linking people with their environment

As the river is their lifeline, millions of people in the basin need to understand the relationship between their everyday lives and the environment they live in. The Environment Programme supported this by communicating water quality results and river water ‘Report Cards’ to national line agencies. To improve regional responses to environmental emergencies, the Programme provides action plans for national governments. It developed awareness and training kits that contain simple terms, maps, graphics about the Mekong River and its people, and other useful materials in local languages

When the MRC conducts a survey or monitoring activity, the communities they work with gain a greater understanding of how their daily activities impact the river’s quality, and in return, their well-being.

Transboundary cooperation in a complex environment

The Mekong flows through six countries on its journey from the source on the Tibetan Plateau to the ocean.

The MRC recognises that the Mekong’s environmental issues are transboundary by nature, and therefore focuses on developing knowledge and scientific data that covers the entire region. Through a regional lens, the Programme aims to promote dialogue between Mekong countries throughout the basin.

In response to the need to approach the Mekong’s environment from a transboundary perspective, the Programme is developing the Guideline for Transboundary Environmental Impact Assessment (TbEIA), which sets a regional standard applicable to national activities.

Knowledge of the Mekong’s environment is only useful if it reaches and is understood by vulnerable communities and authorities, in order to make an impact. The MRC produces a periodic outlook of environmental, social and economic conditions of the Lower Mekong Basin, The State of the Basin Report (2003 and 2010). The report helps Member Countries and stakeholders better understand the state of the Mekong’s transboundary changes.

Programme Document

For detailed information on the structure and components of the Programme, review the Environment Programme Document.


River Awareness Kit highlights key concepts on the key interconnected ecosystems of the Mekong River, supposed to provide understanding of relationship between the river and its people. With interactive maps and graphics, it also introduces readers to river science, outlining the physical world, the living world, people and the river.

Environmental Training Kit provides training materials in five languages. The Kit has

  • A list of Glossary
  • 20 case studies from the Lower Mekong Basin
  • Large volumes of course modules on sustainable resource and environmental development and management, environment impact assessment tools, procedures and decision-making as well as environmental management systems.

Related Topics

For more information about the Environment in the Mekong River Basin visit the Environmental Health topic page, and also see the Climate Change and People topic pages.

Development Partners

Australia, Denmark, France, and Sweden supported the Environment Programme.

Related Publications

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