DMS (detailed modelling support) project: Final report
by Juha Sarkkula and Jorma Koponen (2010)
The general objective of the “Detailed Model Support for the MRC” project has been to develop an integrated modelling tool in support IWRM (or sustainable water resources management) in the Mekong Basin. This vision has its rots back in the planning of the Water Utilization Programme of the MRCS, in late 1990ies. The WUP-A Project Implementation Plan contained the following phrasing to give the direction to this work:
“to provide an enhanced knowledge base and analytical tools that are based on an improved understanding of the interaction between the physical and biological features of the lake and of the changes that may occur due to human activities and to ensure that the modelling framework allows for future adaptation to include new modules for analysing and predicting impacts of proposed actions on the aquatic ecosystem, water use and socio-economic functions”
The importance of this work has become more and more highlighted along with the huge amount of development plans in recent years, particularly relating to hydropower developments. This has strongly underlined the need of developing a comprehensive set of analytical tools and models for hydrological, environmental and social impacts assessment in support of balanced and socially equitable development of the basin resources.
This WUP-A objective was adopted to the TOR of the WUP-FIN Tonle Sap project 2001-2004 and led to the development and application of a multidisciplinary model system this flood pulse driven hydrological, ecological and social system. WUP-FIN approach was extended in its second phase (2004-2007) to a number of additional case studies and in all four MRC member countries, as well as further developments of the model system to response to the complexity of the basin.
For some reason WUP-A (basin wide) approach remained limited to flow focused model system (DSF). This has restricted and slowed down the development of the system beyond a simplified hydrological approach to cover the complex environment of the Mekong basin (incl. sediments, biological processes, fish, social impacts).
The Information and Knowledge Management Programme (IKMP) of the MRCS offered a possibility to develop the IWRM supporting model development within its Modelling component. It was evident that the IKMP had to work toward an integrated basin wide model system, i.e. extend and complement the DSF with the WUP-FIN tools. This was not least because of the emerging massive hydropower development boom in the LMB tributaries and the main stream. The necessary capabilities of the system were clear: to quantify the impacts on sediment transport, ecosystem productivity and livelihoods, something that had been developed systematically in the WUP-FIN work.
Sometimes the definition of 'Detailed Modelling', as well as WUP-FIN model developments, have been erroneously understood to be limited to local scale. In practice the DMS is a basin wide approach covering all necessary processes, scales and detailed processes to allow for modelling and assessment of complete chain of hydrological changes, sediment and nutrient transport, ecosystem and fish productivity, and socio-economic impacts. The need of developing the basin wide integrated model system was not reflected in the allocation of resources within the modelling component of the IKMP. This problem was solved within the DMS project by cooperation with Helsinki University of Technology and Budapest University of Technology and Economics. This cooperation is sincerely appreciated. The same is valid for the multidisciplinary cooperation within the MRCS programmes and other partners on developing the tools for hydrological, ecosystem and social impact chain, particularly relating to sediments, primary and fish productivity and social vulnerability of the rural communities. This has been possible through firm personal commitments and social efforts to reach the objectives.
Throughout years, the MRCS declared that there are no severe impacts of basin developments to its ecosystem or people. Fortunately, more divers and realistic picture has lately formed and the discussion of the great risks and unknowns of the development process has opened. Very helpful to this end has been the extension of the impact tools from the narrow hydrological approach to the integrated system where the ecosystem and social impacts show up, even though the hydrological changes of developments may seem limited. An essential part of this process has been the implementation of the SIMVA (Social Impact Monitoring and Vulnerability Assessment) pilot study at household level. It has improved the understanding of people’s dependency on natural resources in the basin, as well as created a method for a permanent social monitoring programme in the LMB.
This Final Report of the DMS Project presents the results of 5 separate reports, on modelling and impacts assessment tools and development scenario simulations and impacts. It also emphasizes the critically important way forward in building the capacities in problem oriented and multidisciplinary model use at the secretariat and in the member countries. The extended IMRM Toolbox gives an essential improvement to reach the desired capacity building results, necessary for an independent use of the system by the LMB experts.
Much further work remains to be done within the vast field of environmental and social research and impact assessment of the Mekong basin. The new Toolbox is timely and presents a lot of potential and means for proceeding with a cluster of activities in this respect, main points listed in the following
Tonle Sap surface layer dissolved oxygen