PMFM and Basin Development Strategy

One of the major intentions of the of the 1995 Mekong Agreement is to provide the Member Countries with an assured mainstream water resource, while at the same time retaining sovereign rights with regard to national resource development and management policies.


The requirement for a Basin Development Plan (BDP) is stipulated in Article 2 of the 1995 Mekong Agreement. Under MRC’s Basin Development Plan Programme, the concept of a rolling plan has been developed to provide an integrated basin perspective through participatory planning amongst the four Member Countries. The rolling plan comprises two main elements:

  • Basin-wide Development Scenarios, intended to provide the information that Governments and other stakeholders need to develop a common understanding of the most acceptable balance between resource development and resource protection within the Lower Mekong Basin (LMB), and which underpins the formulation of the IWRM-based Basin Development Strategy; and

  • IWRM-based Basin Development Strategy, which provides a shared vision and strategy of how the water and related resources in the LMB could be developed in a sustainable manner, and a coherent and consistent IWRM planning framework that brings basin perspectives into the national planning process, and vice versa.

The current Basin Development Strategy (BDS), approved by the MRC Council in January 2011, sets out a vision for guiding and developing the basin’s water-related resources within acceptable bounds. The BDS aims to contribute to a wider adaptive planning process that links regional and national planning for sustainable development and management of the LMB. 

The BDS employs the concept of the “Development Opportunity Space” (DOS) to present both water resources development opportunities (i.e. how much water can be used for industrial water supply, irrigation and hydropower) and water-related opportunities contributing to improved livelihoods (fisheries, flood warning, watershed management, biodiversity conservation, river trade, climate change adaptation) or improving the management of water and related resources (basin monitoring systems, navigation systems, and policy, institutional and capacity development). The DOS concept takes into account the principle of sustainable development and equitable and reasonable use.

The BDS states: The boundaries of the DOS are set by the agreed basin environmental and social objectives and indicators as well as thresholds set out in the MRC Procedures, such as the flows framework to be maintained under the Procedures for the Maintenance of Flow on the Mainstream (PMFM) and the water quality standards under the Procedures for Water Quality (PWQ). The BDS uses the DOS as an intermediate step in the filtering process that moves from considering the full range of development possibilities to a portfolio of projects that achieves the shared vision, within the prevailing regulatory requirements at national and regional levels.

The conceptualisation of the DOS is illustrated in the following figure that emphasises the interconnectivity between the MRC Procedures (PDIES, PWUM, PNPCA, PMFM and PWQ) and basin planning and the need for them to work coherently together.

Opportunities entering the DOS are those which the countries consider mutually acceptable following the cumulative impact assessment of scenarios reflecting foreseeable future national sectoral plans. The indicators employed for these assessments are those defined in the MRC Indicator Framework, which includes dimensions covering social, environmental and economic impacts and resilience to climate change, as well as compliance with MRC Procedures (the same indicators are used for State of Basin reporting as a means of validating assessment findings). Individual projects are subject to the PNPCA. When required under the PNPCA, checks are made as to whether the project in question falls within the DOS.

The DOS is currently populated by those opportunities which have been determined to be mutually acceptable by the Member Countries on the basis of the cumulative impact assessments conducted.

 Development opportunity space