Mekong River Basin Initiative (MRBI) - Case studies of climate change adaptation projects and an assessment of transboundary issues in the Lower Mekong Basin.

The MRBI responds to the IPCC’s need for a peer-reviewed publication on climate change adaptation projects in the Lower Mekong Basin (LMB) for the Asia Chapter of its 5th Assessment Report. It identifies and evaluates projects exhibiting good practices and desirable characteristics and discusses key transboundary issues in the LMB that preclude closer regional coordination and collaboration. Key insights generated will be shared via a high-level roundtable meeting with adaptation practitioners, policy and decision makers in the region.


The LMB covers 606,000 sq km across Thailand, Lao PDR, Cambodia and Vietnam. It is densely populated with more than 60 million people relying primarily on agriculture and fisheries. The last 30-50 years have seen temperature increases, rainfall pattern changes, flood and drought intensification and sea level rise. It is expected that vulnerabilities will be exacerbated in three areas:

  1. Reduced agricultural output and yields, particularly for rice
  2. Loss of fertile land and population displacement in the Mekong river delta
  3. Reduced fish survival, growth and reproductive success

Project objectives:

The significant vulnerability to climate change effects and the fragmented nature of how this is dealt with in the LMB demands research that can help portray a fuller picture of adaptation in the region. The MRBI therefore seeks to identify projects that exemplify different aspects of adaptation and distil insights and lessons from them. It also aims to understand key governance and transboundary forces that shape collaboration in the LMB and propose approaches for regional programmatic management of adaptation.


An inventory of climate change adaptation projects in the LMB was taken and existing views and studies on transboundary issues in the region were collated. Projects were then shortlisted for case study according to criteria and framework we developed. Stakeholder consultations and workshops were then held to supplement both our views on the prospective case studies and our assessment of transboundary forces in the LMB. We are currently facilitating the development of six case studies as well as documenting our findings on transboundary and governance issues. These will be published and disseminated via a workshop for policy and decision makers in the region.

Preliminary findings:

Valuable insights into how adaptation takes place in the LMB have been found at each step of our study. Here are four preliminary findings from the course of the research:

  • Only 45 (12%) of all labeled climate change adaptation projects really had climate change as a project driver and had an explicit adaptation component.
  • The 6 projects selected for case study development had 2 common success factors: (i) Integration of adaptation into existing community-level plans and (ii) strong stakeholder participation
  • Three forces shape the unstructured nature of adaptation governance in the region: Uncertainty, poor coordination between actors and a lack of adaptive and governance capacity.
  • A transboundary management framework is needed that has mechanism for: (i) capital allocation, (ii) private sector integration, (iii) knowledge acquisition and dissemination and (iv) project implementation

For more information on this project, please contact Dr. Li DING at or Lucas Neo at

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