Mekong Body, Facebook Partner to Share Mekong Flood and Drought Warnings

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The Mekong River Commission (MRC) and Facebook have established a joint collaborative effort to discuss drought and flood warnings–a movement rural Lao villagers said was a huge improvement over the former system.

The venture aims to improve awareness among citizens of the four MRC member states, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam, the MRC stated in a recent media release.

“We observe the extreme importance of providing timely and reliable data on water amounts to Mekong nations and communities vulnerable to flooding and drought along with an ever changing climate so they can do it in time to prevent or reduce their risk and prepare an effective response,” explained Dr Anoulak Kittikhoun, the MRC’s Chief Strategy and Partnership Officer from the discharge.

“In Facebook, we constantly search for new methods to encourage development efforts in this area,” said Shanti Alexander, Asia-Pacific Community Affairs Manager in the U.S.-based social networking giant.

“Having a package of tools that encourages communities to get ready for, react to and recover from disasters and build strength, we are very happy to associate with the MRC to maintain huge numbers of people within this area informed on potential floods and drought so they are better prepared for a catastrophe,” Alexander explained.

Laos has constructed dozens of hydropower dams on the Mekong and its tributaries, with ultimate plans to construct scores more under a strategy to turn into the”Battery of Southeast Asia” to export the power they generate to other nations in the area.

Although the Lao government sees electricity generation for a means to raise the nation’s economy, the jobs are controversial due to their ecological effect, displacement of villagers without sufficient reimbursement, and questionable fiscal and electricity requirement structures.

The nation’s worst fears regarding dam security came accurate without warning on July 23, 2018, when billions of cubic feet of water by a tributary of the Mekong River hauled a diminished saddle dam in the Xe Pian-Xe Namnoy (PNPC) hydropower project in Champassak province.

The water which escaped the neglected dam swept away houses and caused severe flood in cities downstream in Attapeu province, murdering 71 individuals and displacing 14,440 as it wiped out all or any a part of 19 villages.

The MRC Secretariat stated Facebook would encourage the MRC’s Mekong Flood and Drought Forecasting Method –that brings water level and rainfall data at 22 hydrological stations across the Primary channel of the Mekong River at the Lower Mekong Basin

Proponents of this partnership expect that info in the calling system will be easily and effectively transitioned through Facebook, which is commonly utilized in Southeast Asia.

Many rural Lao inhabitants told RFA that the cooperation is welcome news.

“They didn’t warn us that the lake went that this high. We saw advice about that,” a resident of Xayaburi state’s Paklai district, who requested anonymity for security reasons told RFA Sept. 1.

“When they did frighten us, individuals may not have known about it, but when the warning comes through Facebook, folks will have a larger probability of seeing it,” he explained.

The resident added he wasn’t conscious of some government warnings about impending flooding, droughts or water discharged from dams.

Another villager, who resides close to the banks of the Mekong at Champassak province’s funding of Pakse, told RFA that under the prior system, authorities warnings attained only those who’d companies they ran out of little boats.

The villager stated that no warnings have been issued for people who reside along the banks, since the authorities thought they weren’t at risk due to embankments the nation assembled.

“They constructed the embankments, so they simply educated boat people. I believe that it’s better that they’re likely to notify everybody,” the villager said.

An official in the state’s natural resources and environment agency told RFA that electronic warnings could improve the government’s capability to frighten taxpayers through existing stations.

“Today we’re in the midst of searching for methods to get out the warning quickly,” said the officer, who declined to be named.

“Whomever had been conscious of the warning could ship it on line through Facebook, and also the heads of every village could announce through loudspeaker into the villagers so the villagers could prepare in the event of any calamities,” the official stated.

Perhaps not the ending

2 Thailand-based civil society organizations praised the initiative pointed out a alliance with Facebook alone wouldn’t necessarily enhance the response to disasters.

“I consider this as favorable. It is a fantastic strategy with great intentions, but it is important to deliver the data further out,” Souvith Koulapvong, the organizer of the People’s Network at the Lower Mekong-Northeastern Thailand.

A representative of this Chiang Khong Loving team in Chieng Rai, Thailand told RFA that with the assistance of Facebook, warnings still wouldn’t make it into the area’s most vulnerable.

“from the men and women who have access to Facebook, I wonder what percent of them are Mekong riparian men and women,” he explained.

“I do not think we are quite there yet. Possibly sending a letter of caution to community leaders through local civic networks will be better, because that goes right to the goal,” he added.

“A step ahead”

2 U.S.-based specialists said the cooperation was a fantastic development but expected more could be done in order to continue to enhance warning mechanisms in the area.

“Lots of individuals use Facebook in their mobile phones. Therefore, It Looks like a Fantastic thought for the MRC to associate with Facebook to spread useful Information Regarding flood and drought,” Ian Baird, a Southeast Asia specialist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, told RFA.

Brian Eyler, a senior fellow and director of this Washington-based Stimson Center’s Southeast Asia program, told RFA he believed the alliance would result in more transparency.

“Facebook and MRC need to supply additional information on the cooperation. Undoubtedly this is a step ahead for U.S.-based involvement in the area and information transparency from Facebook.”

The MRC Secretariat advised RFA that its venture with Facebook will move on a trial basis before the conclusion of 2021, in that time the partnership could be reevaluated.

Reported and Translated by RFA’s Lao Service. Written in English from Eugene Whong.


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