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The Human Impact of Climate Change in the Lower Mekong

Flowing from the mountains of Laos to the delta in Vietnam, the Lower Mekong River is the lifeblood for the millions of inhabitants who call the basin home. Their food security, health, and economic livelihoods depend directly on the natural systems and services provided by the Mekong River, particularly for crop irrigation and fisheries.

Extreme weather events, like floods and droughts, as well as shifts in the length of wet season and temperature rises will continue to alter the river flow and its vast tributaries to the livelihood in the basin. These factors will directly affect crop productivity and fish stocks that sustain growing populations and generate revenue for the interlinked economies of the Lower Mekong Basin (LMB) nations.

Regional Approach

The Mekong River, the region’s dominant trans-boundary landscape, serves as the unifying element for the USAID Mekong Adaptation and Resilience to Climate Change Project (USAID Mekong ARCC Project). USAID Mekong ARCC is a five year project (2011-2016) supported by the USAID Regional Development Mission for Asia (RDMA) and implemented by DAI in collaboration with the International Centre for Environmental Management (ICEM), World Resources Institute (WRI), and implementing partners -- including AMDI-Vietnam, IUCN-Thailand, and IUCN-Lao PDR. The project focuses on identifying the environmental, economic and social effects of climate change in the LMB, and assisting highly exposed and vulnerable rural populations in ecologically sensitive areas to increase their ability to adapt to climate change impacts on water resources, agricultural systems, biodiversity, ecosystems, and livelihood options. The impetus for the program stems from the launching of the Lower Mekong Initiative (LMI) in 2009, which emphasizes close cooperation between the United States and Thailand, Cambodia, Lao PDR, and Vietnam to support regionally sustainable and environmentally responsible growth.

Sound Science Meets Local Ingenuity

A central objective of the USAID Mekong ARCC project is to serve as a nexus between high level science and on-the-ground community-led responses to the changing climate. To achieve this, a team of USAID Mekong ARCC scientists and researchers conducted a Climate Change Adaptation and Impact Study for the LMB that identified highly threatened and valuable agricultural and natural systems assets. The Study team generated accessible, science-based information that supports regional policy makers in developing coordinated, basin-wide responses to climate change, and scientific understanding via USAID Mekong ARCC’s community-based adaptation initiatives to help at risk populations strengthen their adaptation systems and build resilience into their traditional farming, fishing and natural resource use.

Goals and Objectives

The primary goal of USAID Mekong ARCC is to increase adaptation capacity and resilience of communities to the negative impacts of climate change.

Objectives of the project include:

  • Increase human and institutional capacity to develop and implement climate change adaptation plans and strategies
  • Strengthen policies, tools, methodologies and practices for ecosystem services valuation and climate resiliency
  • Demonstrate and scale-up model actions for integrated approaches to climate change adaptation
  • Support and sustain regional learning networks to share and replicate best practices

The USAID Mekong ARCC is headquartered in Bangkok with project activities carried out in Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Lao PDR. To contact us, click here.

The project fact sheet is available for download here.


Additional fact sheets of USAID Mekong ARCC are listed below:

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