Water Cooperation Priorities in the Lancang-Mekong River Basin Based on Cooperative Events Since the Mekong River Commission Establishment

Yan Feng, Wenling Wang, Daniel Suman, Shiwei Yu, Daming He

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


The Lancang-Mekong River has attracted much attention from researchers, but the cooperation on water issues in this river basin has been limited, even after the establishment of the Mekong River Commission (MRC). Cooperation on water resources has been determined as one of the key priority areas in the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation Mechanism, but there are no details of targets. In order to establish the priorities of water cooperation under the mechanism, we adopted nine categories to classify the objectives of 87 water cooperation events based on the ‘Lancang-Mekong Water Cooperative Events Database’ from 1995 to 2015. Based on the occurrence of cooperative events, cooperative objectives, cooperative scales, and approaches to cooperation, we conducted statistical, correlation, and text analyses. Our analyses indicated the following results: under the impact of economic conditions inside and outside the river basin, full cooperation appeared more difficult than bilateral and multilateral cooperation. Each of the partners adopted different preferences for cooperation targets. Cooperation with more definite objectives was easier to establish than cooperation with broader and more complex objectives. The potential objectives for water cooperation were navigation, hydropower, joint management, data sharing, flood control and water use. Because hydropower development is controversial, and because water cooperation is avoided by most existing regional cooperation mechanisms due to its complexity, we suggest the following priority areas for water cooperation in the Lancang- Mekong River Basin. 1) Navigation and flood control/drought relief are attractive objectives for all the riparian countries across the whole watershed. 2) Data sharing should be a priority for cooperation in the watershed due to its laying the foundation for the equitable and reasonable utilization of transboundary waters. 3) Hydropower is an objective best implemented mainly through bilateral cooperation, and on tributaries.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)58-69
Number of pages12
JournalChinese Geographical Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2019


  • Mekong River Commission
  • cooperative scale
  • objective
  • riparian country
  • the Lancang-Mekong River
  • water cooperation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)


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