These larger urban areas are driving economic growth, but how these cities manage their growth will determine the future health, wealth and wellbeing of communities and environments in the greater Mekong region. At the same time, climate change is increasing the pressures facing these rapidly growing urban centres. It is also critical to recognise that cities impact, and are impacted by, their surrounding catchments.
The Resilient Urban Centres and Surrounds (RUCAS) program uses water management as a catalyst to promote urban climate resilience in 4 greater Mekong countries – Thailand, Viet Nam, Cambodia and Lao PDR. The program – which is funded by the Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) – will support each partner country through 4 stages:
- Engage greater Mekong country partners on the priorities for action and align the opportunities created by hybrid nature-based solution (NbS) investments.
- Demonstrate local application and the economic case for action.
- Support scaling and wider impact.
- Leave a lasting legacy of local partnerships and capacity.
Senator Penny Wong helped launch the program on a recent trip to Thailand, joining Bangkok’s Governor Chadchart Sittipunt to plant a tree in the city’s Lumphini Park.
Australia is proud to support climate resilience and green solutions to urban problems in the Mekong, like flooding.— Senator Penny Wong (@SenatorWong) November 3, 2022
Through a new partnership with @MonashUni, we will work with Thailand on developing climate resilient urban centres under the Mekong Australia Partnership. pic.twitter.com/BdBE06JVJR
Ben Furmage (WSCA CEO) and Michael Simon (WSCA International Lead) visited Thailand and Cambodia in September and October to start stages 1 and 2 in each country.
Activities in each country started with stakeholder meetings and visits to potential case study sites that can be used to demonstrate local application and develop the economic case for action. Following these orientation activities, WSCA and DFAT hosted a knowledge exchange event in each country. Local experts and executives gathered to share their experiences and deepen their understanding of the opportunities and issues associated with applying NbS. They also discussed the challenges facing urban centres in each country and considered ways these centres could better manage urban water to address these challenges. Topics for discussion included identifying, valuing and applying NbS in Thailand and Cambodia, together with priorities for future research, and action.
Participants at the Thai knowledge exchange, Bangkok, 3 October 2022 (Image credit: Water Sensitive Cities Australia).
Participants at the Cambodia knowledge exchange, Phnom Penh, 7 October 2022 (Image credit: Water Sensitive Cities Australia).
The mission was also an opportunity to onboard our local teams and partners. We’re working with local technical experts from the International Centre for Environmental Management (ICEM) across all 4 countries. ICEM has core specialists in climate change, biodiversity conservation, water resources management, environmental assessment, disaster risk reduction, and environmental and social economics.
We’re also working with in-country government agencies:
- The Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning (ONEP) in Thailand formulates policies and plans to conserve and manage the country’s natural resources and the environment.
- The Ministry of Economy and Finance (MEF) in Cambodia manages and coordinates economic and financial structural reforms that support the country’s development.
Ben and Michael will return to the Great Mekong region later this year, to reconnect with key stakeholders in Bangkok, and then conduct similar activities in Viet Nam and Lao PDR.