DMS project: Capacity building report
by Juha Sarkkula and Jorma Koponen (2010)
Needs of capacity building, technology transfer and research in support of sustainable water resources and environmental management are growing rapidly, given the foreseen water and environmental resources developments in the basin. The workload and demands on water resources related institutions and authorities is expected to increase substantially within the next years, given the number of water resources projects in the pipeline in the Mekong basin. The institutions and authorities need state-of-the-art knowledge as well as impact and planning tools, such as models, to successfully accomplish the tasks they are responsible for. Knowledge and tools are best developed through technical assistance, long-term cooperation and knowledge transfer.
The MRC Information and Knowledge Management Programme (IKMP) is responsible for a number of information services including MRC data holdings management, information dissemination, hydrological and sediment monitoring and modelling. The modelling services consist of support for other MRC programmes (for instance basin development scenario simulations within the BDP), tools development (for instance MRC Modelling Toolbox), expert services (for instance China dams and causes for the recent low water levels in the Mekong), model support and capacity building for the countries and services for outside clients (for instance 3S modelling project). The Mekong development pressures and IKMP responsibilities require integrated modelling skills focusing on physical, environmental and socio-economic assessment. This implies significant change compared to the past water volumes focused activities and requires capacity building. The issues in capacity building include both technical skills for solving broader scope of problems as well as improved understanding of environmental processes and their linkages to people’s livelihoods.
The strategy and principles of the IKMP include strong commitment to develop technical and human capacities in the member countries in data collection, modelling and GIS to gain experience in technical and managerial skills. To this end, the IKMP plans and documents underline the need of paying specific attention to the selection of the national IKMP teams and that the selected candidates are suitable for the tasks. These guidelines are of greatest importance for succesful realisation of the capacity building programme and the national case studies. Practical and meaningful case studies are typically multidisciplinary by their nature, due to the complex hydrological, environmental and social conditions which they need to respond to in the Mekong basin.
Some of the key qualifications for the IKMP team members were set in the programme implementation plans as follows:
The DMS project capacity building plan follows the principles set in the IKMP documents and targets to support the IKMP Modelling Team as well as directing a considerable part of the capacity building efforts and resources toward the national institutions. The national institutions have a central role in maintaining the long term sustainability their experts are typically able and encouraged to work on long term basis, and thus the capacity more secured. Strengthening national capacities respond also the needs of the MRC. Strengthening connections and cooperation with the national institutes and the universities builds a natural platform of human resources trough scientific and technical developments, research and everyday practice.
The short term capacity building target of DMS has been to reach within one year a state where at least one person per LMB country (primarily the national modelling and data collection expert) is capable of using the IWRM and 3D modelling tools and providing further capacity building and help to the national IWRM tool users. Identification and exploration of potential candidates to the core team makes use of the user resource developed during WUP-FIN project, where numerous experts from national institutions and universities have participated in the project work as fellows or project team members. The above exploration process does not exclude recruitment of core team members outside the group of experts with earlier experience, qualification and shown capacity in using WUP-FIN tools, e.g. experts having capacity in using the DSF or similar modelling and IA systems.
On top of supporting the MRC Modelling Team and selecting capable national teams for executing capacity building case studies, it is critically important that the capabilities of the modelling tools give the best possible starting point and support to the case studies, as to their multidisciplinary and integrated set-up and objectives. This is highly important for the motivation of learning, the quality, outcome and results of the case studies and their relevance for impact assessment, communication of the results and contribution to decision making process.
Something of the fundamental IKMP strategy seems to have been missed by the IKMP Mid-Term Review evaluation (2010) team, seeing no concern in the fact that the implementation of the IKMP capacity building has been so far following the WUP tradition, leaning plainly on flow oriented approach (i.e. DSF). In fact, much wider needs were identified in the beginning of the IKMP in defining its aims to develop the capacity of modelling all key physical and environmental aspects of the Lower Mekong Basin (and areas beyond that influence the LMB) and link these to socio-economic issues.
The development of the basin wide IWRM tool, comprising both the DSF models and the WUP-FIN models was brought to the awareness of the Mid-Term Evaluation team, but this has not been mentioned in the evaluation. Actually, none of the documents, reports and publications relating the integrated tools and their applications in the basin (WUP-FIN, DMS) found their way to the team or were ignored by the team (“Documents Consulted”). Consequently, the references to the WUP-FIN tools are sparse and misleading, e.g. WUP-FIN tools are considered to ”supporting some local specific needs.” This is a fundamental misunderstanding due to the fact that the WUP-FIN application areas in the LMB floodplains, including the Tonle Sap and the Mekong Delta can by no means be considered as locally specific. Moreover, the WUP-FIN approach has been problem and process focused and oriented, with a large number of practical, problem solving and management supporting case studies around the basin. The use of the tools has widely covered cases of national and regional importance, and most importantly, led to basin wide integrated, holistic modelling and impact assessment.
The capacity of applying the models by the NMCs, line agencies and university teams has been actively developed during WUP-FIN Project Phase 1 and 2, opposite to what has been stated in the evaluation report. The need to continue and improve this process under the DMS-project, as the key for long term development and sustainability of modelling staff and expert centres, has been very emphatically voiced by the countries and the MRC, but has been so far obstructed by budgetary decisions.
The IKMP Mid-Term Evaluation team recommends “to open the modelling and capacity building programme to include regional university staff and post graduate students so as to widen the capacity building net”. This need is already built in the IKMP implementation plan and something that has actually taken place within the WUP-FIN project from its very beginning in 2001, offering a good existing network for further development and expansion.
Flow and flooding in the Tonle Sap