SUMERNET partners engage policymakers and contribute to key messages at the 2nd Asia Pacific Water Summit 2013

Agus Nugroho By Agus Nugroho - May 27, 2013

SEI-Asia and SUMERNET convened two technical workshops in the 2nd Asia Pacific Water Summit (APWS) in Chiang Mai, 16-20 May 2013, that highlighted the theme of “Water Security and Water-related Disaster Challenges: Leadership and Commitment”.

In response to the request from Royal Thai Government, SEI Asia and SUMERNET convened 2 technical workshops within the sub-theme of “Economic, Food and Water Security” and “Water Risks and Resilience” and jointly organized with International Water Management Institute (IWMI) on 17 May 2013. The technical workshops was conducted within the 2nd Asia Pacific Water Summit (APWS) in Chiang Mai, 16-20 May 2013, which highlights theme “Water Security and Water-related Disaster Challenges: Leadership and Commitment”.

This event is a high-level event with the participation of several heads of state, including the Prime Minister of Thailand and other dignitaries from about 50 countries in Asia Pacific. The technical workshops are expected to generate key messages to be considered by Asia Pacific leaders in addressing issues on water security and water-related disaster challenges in the region.
Nexus of Energy, Food and Water

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(cc) 2013 Photo by Agus Nugroho - The plenary of Energy, Food and Water Security session led by SEI-IWMI-SUMERNET (EFWS2), from left: Dr. Guillaume Lacombe (IWMI), Dr. Eric Kemp-Benedict (SEI), Dr. Chayanis Krittasudthacheewa (SEI), Ms. Orn-uma Polpanich , and Dr. Saykham Voladet (SUMERNET)

In the SEI-IWMI-SUMERNET’s session within “Economic, Food and Water Security” (EFWS) sub-theme entitled “Enhancing opportunities with the nexus of energy, food and water security for more sustainable Greater Mekong Sub-region”. The highlight will be the challenges for the regional economic development due to increasing demands in energy and food that can change the movement of water, people and also business within the countries and cross-border. The session covers the experience using newly-developed WEAP-LEAP integrated framework as an alternative planning tool in decision making process concerning water, food and energy security. This session shares key results obtained from three research studies on the implication of economic development/investment (hydropower development in Lao PDR, bio-energy crop expansion in Thailand and contract farming practice in Thailand, Lao PDR, Cambodia and Myanmar) using different tools.

The session was led by Dr. Chayanis Krittasudthacheewa and consisting of 4 panelists:

  • Dr. Guillaume Lacombe (IWMI) on “Does water availability constrain development in the Vientiane Plain? Insights from a water balance assessment of the Lower Nam Ngum Basin, Lao PDR”
  • Dr. Eric Kemp-Benedict (SEI Asia) on “Exploring the Northeast Thailand Futures – Nexus of Water, Food and Energy Investment”
  • Ms. Orn-uma Polpanich (SEI Asia) on “Balancing land resources for food vs energy: small-scale land conversion to lucrative oil palm crops”
  • Dr. Saykham Voladet (NERI / SUMERNET) on “Increasing the benefits to rural households in the Mekong Region from contract farming: insights from studies of rice and sugar”

Slides from these presentations are available in this link.

The nexus session (EFWS2) received good participation from policymakers, practitioners and researchers in the field, with over 40 participants attending from Thailand and the region. The session was quite lively with comments and questions from participants in each presentation. The session was closed with the plenary, in which panelists can comment and discuss on certain issues posed by moderator or audience. One of the final questions posed by moderator was addressing key message to be conveyed to high-level policy makers. The final take can be concluded from various responses by panelists was that nexus of energy, food and water should be viewed as interlinking and in the development policy decision leaders should also consider this and sustainability of development outcomes in all levels, especially on grass root level.

Finally moderator summarizes the session discussion into key messages to be conveyed to Asia Pacific leader. Among other key messages, an important mode of regional cooperation was suggested:

  • Sharing of data, knowledge and expertise – (S for Sharing)
  • Application of integrated water-energy participatory planning tools for decision making (e.g. integrated LEAP-WEAP, MRC IWRM, other tools?) - (T for Tools)
  • Regional assessments at regional level considering the interaction of water, energy and food security while taking into account uncertainty of climate change (e.g. Mekong for now, Mekong forever project) – (A for Assessment)
  • Negotiations and dialogue to find feasible solutions on trans-boundary issues – (N for Negotiations)
  • Governance in the country and region should be improved to enable cross sector, scale and border cooperation – (G for Governance)
  • Ensure the coherent and redistributive policies for social equity as well as socially and environmentally sounded development – (P&D for Policies and Development)
For easy remembrance, the suggested mode of regional cooperation on nexus of energy, food and water can be termed STANG P&D. The full key messages can be viewed in this presentation.

One of the participants from Chiang Mai University mentioned that EFWS2 session was very interesting as it introduces new approach of nexus and has also shown examples of using of economics principles in water management. Other participants also pointed out the existing knowledge gap on poverty related to land ownership and on sustainable farming for large and small-holder farms.

Water Risks and Resilience

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(cc) 2013 Photo by Agus Nugroho - WRR2 Plenary, from left: Dr. Albert Salamanca (SEI), Dr. Paul Pavelic (IWMI), Dr. Nguyen Duy Can (SUMERNET), Mr. Ngo Cong Chinh (SUMERNET), Ms. Clara Rellensmann (UNESCO)

In SEI-IWMI-SUMERNET-led session within “Water Risks and Resilience” (WRR) sub-theme, entitled “Reducing water risk and increasing resilience with insights from the Mekong countries”, highlights multi-dimensional intersection between flood and other elements such as migration, socio-political relations, ecosystems, livelihoods, health, vulnerability and resilience, effective communication to improve water-related risks and uncertainties among multi-stakeholders. This session also highlights the key findings from SUMERNET projects on vulnerability assessment of livelihoods in lower Mekong basin and communicating water-related climate change risks.

This water risk and resilience session (WRR2) was facilitated by Dr. Louis Lebel from USER and involving the following panelists and topics:

  • Dr. Albert Salamanca (SEI) on “Politics, Governance, Experiences and Responses to Flooding in ASEAN – A Case Study of Selected Villages in Lao PDR”
  • Dr. Paul Pavelic (IWMI) on “Blending the old with the new: A fresh approach to addressing recurring floodwater impacts and improving livelihoods in the Chao Phraya River Basin”
  • Dr. Nguyen Duy Can (Can Tho University / SUMERNET) on “Application of livelihood vulnerability index to assess risks from flood vulnerability and climate variability - A case study in the Mekong Delta of Vietnam”
  • Mr. Ngo Cong Chinh (AMDI / SUMERNET) on “Communicating Water-Related Climate Change Risks to Improve Local Adaptation in the Deltas of the Mekong Region”
  • Ms. Clara Rellensmann (UNESCO) on “Developing a Flood Risk Reduction Plan for the World Heritage Site of Ayutthaya”

The complete slides from the presentations can be accessed here.

The session was run effectively and drew much attention from participants attending APWS since issues of flood disaster and its impacts have been taken as one of the central issue in APWS, especially when Thailand experienced major flood in 2011. Approximately 30 and more participants attended WRR2 session with active exchanges of opinion and questions among panelists and participants.

Among the issues highlighted during the discussion were the ideas of managing the water excess in mitigating the effects of drought season, involving community in flood prevention and devising compensation mechanism for increased engagements, and addressing heritage sites in the vulnerability assessment, as the heritage sites are among most vulnerable when flood disaster occurs.

Five key messages were also drawn as inputs for policy makers:

  • Floods and flood-related disasters have been governed as if they were purely technical, engineering, challenges separate from other processes of development; but they are not. Dealing with institutional fragmentation, poor coordination, and lack participation are often as crucial as new investments in dikes, drains, diversions, dams or pumps.
  • Vulnerability to floods often differs among social groups, for example, with respect to wealth, gender and ethnicity. Vulnerability indices can help decision-makers identify vulnerable groups and drivers of vulnerability that should be targeted in programs. While successful risk communication does not guarantee people’s behavior change and adoption of good practices it is often a practical starting point.
  • Proper consideration should be given to the vulnerability of cultural heritage sites in addition to conventional concerns with homes, farms and factories.
  • Floods also bring benefits; institutional and physical interventions should take these into account. For example, significant volumes of floodwater reaching the sea can be harvested without major impacts on existing users through managed aquifer recharge.
  • Improvements in flood governance are needed and are achievable by: Expanding public participation, building adaptive capacities at multiple levels, integrating disaster management into development planning, linking knowledge and practice, and prioritizing the disadvantaged and most vulnerable.

Beside those two sessions, SEI also actively involves in other sessions, such as session on “Framework for Action on Water in Green Growth in Support of Economic, Food, and Water Security at Local, National, and Regional Levels” (EFWS1) convened by FAO and UNESCAP. In this session, Dr. Eric Kemp-Benedict (SEI Asia Centre Director) presents on the perspective of Green Growth, whereas Dr. Chayanis Krittasudthacheewa (SEI Asia Deputy Centre Director) presents the key messages from EFWS2 for considerations and comments.

The participation of SUMERNET partners in the 2nd APWS Technical Workshops 2013 was made possible with the support of Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) and Climate Development and Knowledge Network (CDKN).

SEI welcomes inquiries from the external parties and media on SUMERNET work and topics being discussed and presented in the 2nd APWS Technical Workshops 2013. For inquiries, please contact Agus Nugroho ( agus.nugroho@sei-international.org).

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