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Using the Water-Energy-Food Nexus to Promote Sustainable Development and Combat Climate Change in the Mekong River Basin

IWRA World Water Congress 2017 - Cancun Mexico
3. Water security in a changing world
Author(s): Man Yang
Rabi Mohtar
Qiong Su

Man Yang
Rabi Mohtar
Qiong Su

Keyword(s): Water-Energy-Food Nexus, Climate Change, Resilience, Water Risk, Food Risk, Energy Risk, Mekong, Policy


The Mekong River is of great significance to the people of Southeast Asia, and is highly valued for its role in culture throughout history. The basins are seen as the engines behind energy infrastructure, regional transportation grids, and tourism development (Asian Development Bank’s Greater Mekong Sub-Region (GMS) initiatives).  However, the competing demand of water, energy and food, as well as threats posed by climate change, place constraints on the region’s future development. In this paper, an interdisciplinary approach was used to examine the current state of Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand, and Vietnam’s water, energy and food profile.

This was accomplished through the development of the Resilience Index, a tool used to gauge the level of a country’s combined food water and energy securities. The Resilience Index, was formulated using Renewable Energy in Energy Profile, Water Risk Index, Water Withdrawal for Agriculture/Cultivated Land Area, Prevalence of Undernourishment, and Percentage of Agricultural Land as indicators of risk. For each country, a data set was gathered to provide the current value for each of the indicators. The resulting score was analyzed and policy recommendations were formed to improve the Resilience Index by focusing on the main risk-contributing indicators

This demonstrated the potential usefulness of the Resilience Index as analysis method to assist policy makers in comprehensively informed decision making. Treating water food and energy security as an integrated whole is crucial to the creation of an optimal strategy for future development.  Some examples of policy recommendations include growing cassava as an alternative to rice production in the Mekong Delta country Vietnam, and increasing federal funding to the school meals program in Lao PDR. This paper proposes several additional interventions to reduce the water risk, energy risk and food risk of Lao PDR, Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia as well as associated tradeoffs and complications.


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