HANOI, VIETNAM – 7 March 2013: Climate change is set to impact extensively on agricultural productivity, and force changes in land usage by 2050 in lower Mekong Basin countries, according to a new ICEM study as part of the Mekong ARCC project.

The finding of the study in agriculture were presented in a large info-graphics poster at Mekong Environmental Symposium 2013 in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Held 5-7 March  2013, the Mekong Environmental Symposium was an international platform for governmental decision-makers, scientists, and other organizations active in the Mekong context.

ICEM was present to contribute international expertise and to contribute to trans-disciplinary information exchange for the benefit of the river basin. Experts were present from all six riparian countries, in the fields of river ecology, environmental monitoring, hydrology, socio-economics, energy, disaster management, trade and other sectors. Approximately 300-350 participants attended the high-profile three-day event.

The findings of the study indicated that climate change will affect the lives and livelihoods of more than 42 million people in the Lower Mekong Basin (LMB) who depend entirely on agriculture. Changes to the Mekong monsoon could cause floods, droughts and increasingly violent storms, bringing huge challenges to the agricultural sector.

The study (2011-2013) assessed the climate change impacts on subsistence and commercial farming in the LMB by 2050. Key subsistence and commercial crop species were studied, namely; lowland rain-fed rice, soya, maize, cassava, robusta coffee and rubber. The study used the results of statistical downscaling of Global Circulation Models coupled with a land use suitability assessment tool to examine the impacts of projected changes in climate on the suitability of the six crops.

What will change in the lower Mekong basin by 2050?

  • Industrial crops which are economically important, such as coffee or rubber, will become less suitable in eastern Cambodia, Vietnamese Central Highlands and the Annamites  – due to projected temperature increases and excessive rainfall, as well as periodic drought.
  • New areas at higher altitudes in the Central Highlands and northern Lao PDR will become more suitable for industrial crops such as cassava, rubber and coffee – due to projected temperature increases.
  • Projected increased rainfall and temperature will lower maize, soya and cassava suitability across Cambodia, northeastern Thailand plains and plateaus and along the Mekong River corridor.

Projected temperature increases

  • Maximum daily temperatures increase by 1.9 – 4.8°C
  • Sesan, Srepok, Sekong catchments:  Largest increase
  • Northern Annamites and the Mekong Delta:Smaller increase
  • Khorat Plateau: Amongst the least increase
Mekong riparian countries are facing severe human-induced challenges, due to socio-economic transformation, urbanization, and the ever increasing interlinking and economic growth of the riparian countries. Hydropower developments on the main river streams are just one example of many controversial topics related to the Mekong Basin. These developments, in addition to climate change and associated shifts in flood pulse or river ecology are taking their toll on a highly sensitive aquatic ecosystem and affect the livelihoods of millions of people in the region. These effects are negatively reinforced by the increasing and often conflicting demands of the different riparian countries of the Mekong

> View ICEM’s USAID Mekong ARCC  info-graphic poster