Overview of the PMFM and the Technical Guidelines

The 1995 Mekong Agreement and the five MRC Procedures 

The spirit of benefit sharing and sustainable development of the Mekong River was officially bound in the “Agreement on the Cooperation for the Sustainable Development of the Mekong River Basin”, hereinafter referred to as the “1995 Mekong Agreement” and inked by the Governments of The Kingdom of Cambodia, The Lao People’s Democratic Republic, The Kingdom of Thailand, and The Socialist Republic of Viet Nam, in Chiang Rai, Thailand, on 5 April 1995.

One of the major objectives 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 fundamental principles that underpin the 1995 Mekong Agreement are that the basin wide use of the Mekong River system remains reasonable and equitable and that potential trans-boundary impacts do not cause harm to other Member Countries.

The 1995 Mekong Agreement reaffirms and expands the globally acknowledged “Spirit of Mekong Cooperation” created in 1957. It adopted a set of mutually accepted and fair objectives and principles of cooperation for sustainable development and utilisation of the water and related resources and environment of the Mekong River Basin. The articles of the 1995 Agreement have retained much of the original Spirit of Mekong Cooperation, but have shifted the focus from development of large scale water projects to sustainable development and management of natural resources.

The 1995 Mekong Agreement is a dynamic framework agreement that enables and requires the MRC to adopt and refine as needed, rules and procedures to carry out its work in close cooperation and coordination with relevant agencies and peoples of the Member Countries. It identifies key activities and mechanisms that support the sustainable equitable use, utilisation and protection of the Mekong’s water and water related resources for Member Countries.

The Mekong River Commission (MRC), in 1999, adopted and committed to a Water Utilisation Programme (WUP) to develop sets of rules for water utilisation in the Lower Mekong Basin (LMB). They are the five MRC Procedures:

  • Procedures for Data and Information Exchange and Sharing (PDIES) – 2001
  • Procedures for Water Use Monitoring (PWUM) – 2003
  • Procedures for Notification, Prior Consultation and Agreement (PNPCA) – 2003
  • Procedures for the Maintenance of Flows on the Mainstream (PMFM) – 2006
  • Procedures for Water Quality (PWQ) – 2011 

The Procedures for the Maintenance of Flows on the Mainstream (PMFM) were adopted by the MRC Council on the 22nd June 2006. The objectives of the Procedures for the PMFM are to provide a framework for technical guidelines, institutional arrangements, directions and information to enable the MRC and its Member Countries to maintain and manage the flows of the Mekong River mainstream as required by Articles 6 and 26 of the 1995 Mekong Agreement

Article 6 - Maintenance of Flows on the Mainstream

Article 6 of the 1995 Mekong Agreement defines three hydrological criteria that set-up the fundamentals of the PMFM.  According to this Article, the mainstream flows should be maintained at levels such that:

  • Article 6A - They are not less than the acceptable minimum monthly natural flow during each month of the dry season;
  • Article 6B - They enable the acceptable natural reverse flow of the Tonle Sap to take place during the wet season; and
  • Article 6C - An average daily peak flows are not greater than what naturally occur on the average during the flood season.

The MRC Joint Committee shall adopt guidelines for the locations and levels of the flows, and monitor and take action necessary for their maintenance as provided in Article 26. 

Article 26 - Rules for Water Utilisation and Inter-Basin Diversions

The MRC Joint Committee shall prepare and propose for approval of the MRC Council, inter alia, Rules for Water Utilisation and Inter-Basin Diversions pursuant to Articles 5 and 6, including but not limited to: (1) Establishing the time frame for the wet and dry seasons; (2) Establishing the location of hydrological stations, and determining and maintaining the flow level requirements at each station; (3) Setting out criteria for determining surplus quantities of water during the dry season on the mainstream; (4) Improving upon the mechanism to monitor intra-basin use; and (5) Setting up a mechanism to monitor inter-basin diversions from the mainstream. 

Institutional Arrangements

Implementation of the PMFM requires the active participation of the MRC Council, the MRC Joint Committee, the MRC Secretariat, the National Mekong Committees and its relevant Line Agencies

Technical Guidelines for the PMFM

Articles 6 and 26 provided the provisions to maintain an acceptable hydrological regime on the mainstream basing upon the natural hydrological regime. 

The PMFM reaffirm the requirements of Article 6 and confirm that separate Technical Guidelines are to be prepared to, inter alia:

  • Determine the levels of the flows to be maintained; and
  • Establish criteria for selection of the initial hydrological stations and a list of monitoring sites required for the implementation of the PMFM.

--> More information about the Technical Guidelines for the PMFM