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Data sharing vital for sustainable Mekong development

Bali, Indonesia: Mekong countries must improve data sharing policies and mechanisms, as they are crucial for transboundary water management and sustainable development in the region, according to a senior Mekong researcher.

Dr Thanapon Piman (second from right) joins international panelists to discuss effective approaches to enhance transboundary water management and sustainable development.

Speaking at a side event of the 10th World Water Forum in Bali, Indonesia, on Tuesday, the Water Cluster Lead of the Stockholm Environment Institute, Dr Thanapon Piman acknowledged progress in regional data-sharing initiatives, but emphasized that there is still more to be done to have the perfect system.
“It is not yet perfect, but there is a lot of progress over the past years,” said Dr Thanapon, who served as one of the panelists at the Enhancing Transboundary Water Management and SDG session, a side event of the World Water Forum in Bali.
Several thousand policymakers, researchers, and civil society representatives gathered in Bali this week to discuss water security amid the growing demand for water for drinking, industrial, and agricultural development.
According to Dr Thanapon, enhancing transboundary water management and sustainable development in the Mekong region cannot be realized without data sharing.
“Data is used to produce basin development plans,” Dr Thanapon said, adding that without data sharing, there will be no trust, effective cooperation, or sustainable development planning.
The Mekong is the seventh longest river in Asia, originating in Tibet. It flows through southern China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam before reaching the South China Sea. Due to these diverse regions, each country along the Mekong has different priorities, policy and mechanism in data collection and sharing.
Dr Thanapon, who previously worked at the Mekong River Commission Secretariat, stressed that to strengthen cooperation in the Mekong, each country must seek common ground; otherwise, they will be speaking different languages.
Countries in the Mekong have varied development priorities. However, they share common interests, such as flood and drought prevention and mitigation, he added.
In addition to data sharing among policymakers, it is crucial for Mekong countries to ensure that data is timely and accessible for riparian communities.
“Riparian communities need data in advance before flooding occurs,” he said, adding that it does not make sense if communities receive data after the flood.
Dr Thanapon acknowledged that currently, communities find it difficult to understand the available data, so relevant sectors must ensure that data is digestible at the community level.
He noted that there are many opportunities for relevant sectors to communicate available data to communities, thanks to advancements in AI and modern information and communication technology.
The most important things in enhancing transboundary cooperation and data-sharing is political commitment and leadership of the Mekong countries, he added.

By Ekaphone Phouthonesy
 (Latest Update May 22, 2024)

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