Mekong River as a Source of Natural Resources

The Mekong River is a transboundary common-pool resource since the water, land and biological resources are an indispensable and valuable asset for the livelihoods of approximately 65 million peoples in 6 countries; China, Burma, Lao PDR, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam. In the economic dimensions, the Mekong countries have the potentials to attract foreign investors in terms of their abundance in natural resources and competitive cost of labor. From 2015-2018, Japan’s private sector invested more than 18,190 million US dollars in the region, especially concentration on the special economic zones (Nicolas, 2018)

Meanwhile, in 2016, the drought has broken the Mekong River Commission 100-years historical record for Mekong water scarcity. The primary reason for the acutely low water level in the Mekong has been assumed as the lack of rainfall; moreover, operations at the Jinghong dam in China, and the Xayaburi dam in Laos, have also been assumed for exacerbating the water crisis (MRC, 2019).

The ongoing Mekong crisis increases more concerns about economic losses to water-related economic sectors; fishery industry, agriculture, cross-border transportation and tourism, involving all riparian countries and foreign direct investment (FDI), both of source countries and host countries, are affected. Furthermore, the impacts are effecting drastically not only on economic development but also on local livelihoods and ecosystems of riparian countries of the Mekong.

The recent dam-building trend has revealed a trade-off between hydropower development and the conservation of migratory fish species. On one side, the numerous dam projects are estimated capable of generating enormous electricity and create a surplus of energy for export. However, on the other side, the World Wide Fund for Nature (2019) reported that the dams would threaten wildlife in the Mekong River by eliminating migratory fish in large parts of the Mekong and exacerbate the Irrawaddy dolphin extinction. In addition, the report emphasized the importance of biodiversity in the Mekong River because if entire ecosystems are collapsed, the healthy Mekong may never reappear. Consequently, balancing ecosystem protection and economic development along the Mekong River are vital challenges for both policymakers and governments of all riparian states of the Mekong.

According to an action plan under Mekong-Japan Cooperation, leading by Japan, for "A Decade toward the Green Mekong" initiative aims to achieve sustainable development in the region. Japan commits to support the Mekong countries and collaborate with international organizations, such as the Mekong River Commission (MRC), for developing quality environmental infrastructures, protect biodiversity and address river water-related issues, including water sustainable management and development, in the Mekong River (MOFA, 2019).

Based on this circumstance, the purpose of this research intends to examine the efficiency of water resources management cooperation in the Mekong as well as scrutinize the risks of ecological damages. In this research, two questions were to be answered. Firstly, are existing water resource management and agreements in the Mekong River sufficiently effective?

And secondly, how the important role of Japan cooperation with riparian countries in the Mekong Subregion and other international organizations towards water resource management? To answer these questions, this research will integrate Design principles, suggested by Ostrom (1990), as a theoretical framework to analyze the efficiency of Common-Pool Resources (CPRs) governance and cooperation in the Mekong subregion under the presumption that successful common-pool resource governance has fundamental common design principles; monitoring and sanctioning of the participants, and Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) will be used as a principle to identify an appropriate and holistic approach of water resource management (Moder, 2012).

The two qualitative research methods will be used for the data collection process, documentary research will be used to clarify the overall image of water resource management in Mekong subregion countries and in-depth interviews will be used to collect data from private and public sectors. This research will be beneficial to the policymakers in both government and private sectors also the undertaking scholars who wish to conduct research in this area and others who desire to fulfill their curiosity and knowledge. Through this research will be helpful to understand Mekong’s water resource management and better realize the tremendous values of ecosystems in the Mekong subregion.