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MERFI implemented the socio-economic, macroeconomic and cumulative impact assessments for the MRC’s Council Study

The Council Study aimed at the assessment of a set of scenarios the four MRC Member Countries agreed on. These scenarios include a wide range of development projects, including hydropower, irrigation, flood protection and navigation.

The socio-economic assessment focused on food security, water security and household income. The macroeconomic assessment included GDP growth and natural capital. The cumulative impact assessment analysed impacts on resilience, sustainability and transboundary trade-offs.   

MERFI collaborates with Chulalongkorn University and SEI on Nexus in ASEAN 

MERFI started a new collaboration with Chulalongkorn University and Stockholm Environment Institute on the Water, Food, and Energy Nexus. The goal is to develop a practical guideline for ASEAN countries that list typical Nexus trade-offs based on a set of case studies in the Mekong basin, Thailand, Myanmar and Indonesia. The guideline aims to raise awareness of development risk and highlight the need to assess impacts to mitigate Nexus trade-offs for a more sustainable development in ASEAN countries. The guidelines will be developed by July 2018. 

MERFI collaborates with FAO on the Water, Food, and Energy Nexus: 

MERFI assisted the FAO in designing and implementing a session on the water, food, and energy Nexus at the Asian-Pacific Water Summit in Yangon. The session aimed to facilitate a cross-sector discussion of measures to better manage and further promote awareness of the relationships between water, energy, food and ecosystems in the Asia- Pacific region.

Currently, MERFI assists FAO in developing a position paper and designing a conference session at the upcoming World Water Council Summit Brasilia 2018



MERFI implemented the socio-economic, macroeconomic and cumulative impact assessments of the Mekong River Commission’s Council Study

The Council Study implemented a multi-disciplinary assessment of a set of scenarios the four MRC Member Countries agreed on. These scenarios include a wide range of development projects, including hydropower, irrigation, flood protection and navigation, and focused on the period until 2040. MERFI designed in close partnership with the MRC Secretariat the relevant methodology for the socio-economic, macroeconomic, and cumulative assessments. READ MORE>>

MERFI implemented under the GIZ-MRC cooperation programme the evaluation of the socio-economic assessment of the Pak Beng hydropower project as part of the Procedures for Notification, Prior Consultation and Agreement (PNPCA) of the Mekong River Commission (MRC).

This review is focused on the PBHPP site specific and transboundary assessment of the socio-economic impacts of the Pak Beng Hydropower Project (PBHPP and guided by the 1995 MRC agreement, which requires Member Countries make every effort to avoid minimise and mitigate harmful effect on the Mekong River System. This review documents the process of establishing whether the social, environmental and transboundary information submitted for prior consultation by...READ MORE>>

MARVI: Managed Aquifer

The Dharma of Water

The project ‘Managing Aquifer Recharge and Sustaining Groundwater Use through Village-level Intervention’ MARVI was conducted during 2012 - 2017 with the support of the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR). Key partners of this project are Western Sydney University, CSIRO Land & Water, International Water Management Institute, Development Support Centre, Arid Communities and Technologies, Maharana Pratap University of Agriculture and Technology and Vidya Bhawan Krishi Vigyan Kendra. READ MORE>>

Implementing cross-sectoral negotiations to coordinate Nam Xong livelihoods, ecosystem services and agricultural intensification - funded by WLE

Integrating the interactions between river management, agricultural productivity, ecosystem services, land use change and livelihood status into cross-sectoral negotiations is an acute knowledge gap when designing development interventions in the Mekong region. Policy decisions are currently geared to single sector, agency specific objectives. Although policy outcomes can approximate single sector objectives, adverse and unforeseen social, ecological and economic consequences can emerge for other sectors. Failure to treat individual sectors as...READ MORE>>

Upscaling climate adaptation investments 


The USAID funded Mekong ARCC program developed adaptation strategies with villages in areas in the lower Mekong basin that are expected to experience negative impacts of climate change. MERFI employed large scale household survey data from the Mekong Region Futures study in Vietnam's Mekong Delta to statistically identify villages that would benefit from the same adaptation strategies if a broader implementation investment was rolled out.   

New publication in Nature Climate Change
Vietnamese communities in the Mekong delta are faced with the substantial impacts of rising sea levels and salinity intrusion. The construction of embankments and dikes has historically been the principal strategy of the Vietnamese Government to mitigate the effects of salinity intrusion on agricultural production. A predicted sea-level rise of 30 cm by the year 2050 is expected to accelerate salinity intrusion. This study combines hydrological, agronomic and behavioural assessments to identify effective adaptation strategies reliant on land use change (soft options) and investments in water infrastructure (hard options)...READ MORE>>
Ecosystem valuation estimator 


Many projects in the GMS lack capacity to conduct an economic valuation of natural capitals and their ecosystem services. Correspondingly, many policy debates lack the immediate access to such economic information, which conceals trade-offs and risks the loss of substantial economic benefits. 
MERFI developed a simple tool for non-economists, which estimates economic values of ecosystem services based on valuations conducted in the GMS. This work is a collaboration with Mekong ARCC and was funded by USAID.  



MERFI developed an integrated assessment tool for the Mekong River Commission to understand the impacts of hydropower development on a wide variety of indicators.  TRY>>

Updated Hydropower Dam Database for the Mekong 


This data set is populated, curated and managed by the Mekong Region Futures Ins)tute. The datasets list all known (and unknown) dams in Cambodia, China (Yunnan), Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand and Viet Nam, and provide the following addi)onal informa)on (where available): The name of the project; any alterna)ve names, the country in which it is located, the river on which it is located, the dam's loca)on (decimal degrees, latitude/ longitude), the dam's func)on (hydropower, irriga)on etc.), its status (commissioned, under construc)on, etc.), year of commissioning, installed capacity ...READ MORE>>  

Photo ©Green News Agency, Thailand



The Mekong Region Futures Institute (MERFI) combines participatory planning processes, integrated assessments, and local capacity building to effectively contribute to evidence-based decision making leading to more sustainable natural resource management in the Asia Pacific region.

This non-for-profit initiative exists since 2008 as an Australia-funded research for development program, which was then made independent in 2015. The Institute was established in Bangkok and Vientiane by Dr Alex Smajgl and Dr John Ward, formerly senior research scientists with the Australian Government’s science agency, the CSIRO.

MERFI’s core activities include: the social, economic and ecological analysis of development investments; testing conflict resolution institutions and governance options by applying complex system tools and improved cross-sectoral coordination; the assessment of climate change and adaptation options in the context of development priorities and transboundary water-food-energy related trade-offs; livelihood and wellbeing surveys and analysis; the design and facilitation of participatory processes to promote systems learning among decision making agencies; and the development of license free data and analytical tools.


Our vision is to effectively contribute to evidence-based decision making leading  to more sustainable policy outcomes in the Greater Mekong Subregion. We aim to achieve this vision by combining scientific assessment methods, participatory processes and capacity building. Our activities include:

  • the analysis of development investment options by applying complex system tools and by improved cross-sectoral coordination.

  • the implementation of participatory processes to facilitate learning among decision making agencies by eliciting, analyzing and explaining cross-sector trade-offs of development investments among government agencies, universities and research institutions, and civil society.

  • the facilitation of cross-sector dialogue to share experiences about development investments and to minimize cross-sector trade-offs.

  • the development of license free data and analytical tools provided to government agencies, including comprehensive training.

  • the training of Government agency staff in the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) to assess sustainability related outcomes of development decisions,  promoting improved national efficiencies in:

    •  sustainable national and regional development
    •  maintenance and improvement of ecosystem services
    •  community capacity to adapt to climate change
    •  poverty reduction
    •  wellbeing and more resilient livelihoods
    •  ability to compete in the world market
  • the education of civil society and affected communities on sustainability and poverty related issues. We will publish our research results in printed and in digital media, and by providing results to newspapers and similar accessible outlets.  This goal will be supported by village level activities in the most vulnerable areas.

  • the promotion of collaboration among institutes, offices, associations, foundations, academic institutes, and private sectors to collect and develop  knowledge in complex systems modelling.                                                                                         



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