Challenges in Multi-National Resource Management: the Mekong

One of our main activities at Profit Point is to help companies and organizations to plan better, to make informed decisions that lead to improvements such as more efficient use of resources, lower cost, higher profit and reduced risk. Frequently we use computer models to compare the projected results for multiple alternative futures, so that an organization can better understand the impacts and tradeoffs of different decisions. Companies can usually effectively carry out these types of processes and make decisions, since the CEO or Board of the entity is empowered to make these types of decisions, and then direct their implementation.

Infrastructure and resource allocation decisions must be made on a national and international basis as well, and are usually more difficult to achieve than within a company. An example of this today is the on-going controversy in southeastern Asia regarding the use of water from the Mekong River in the countries through which it flows: China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam.
For a map of the river and region, refer to the link below:

http://e360.yale.edu/content/images/0616-mekong-map.html

The Mekong River rises in the Himalayan Mountains and flows south into the South China Sea. For millennia the marine ecosystems downstream have developed based on an annual spring surge of water from snow melt upstream. The water flow volume during this annual surge period causes the Tonle Sap River, a Mekong tributary in Cambodia, to reverse flow and absorb some of the extra water, resulting in a large temporary lake. That lake is the spawning ground for much of the fish population in the entire Lower Mekong river basin, which is in turn the main protein source for much of the human population in those areas.

Now China has an ambitious dam construction program underway along the upper Mekong, and other countries (along with their development partners) are planning more dams downstream. Laos, for one, has proposed construction of eleven dams, with an eye towards becoming “The Battery of Asia”.

The challenge here is to find and implement a resource allocation tradeoff that meets multiple objectives, satisfying populations and companies that need clean water, countries that need electricity to promote economic development and fish that need their habitat and life cycle.

Multiple parties have developed measures and models that can help forecast the impact of different infrastructure choices and water release policies on the future Mekong basin. Let’s hope that the governments in Southeast Asia are able to agree on a reasonable path forward, and implement good choices for the future use of the river.

For more information here are a few examples of articles on the Mekong:

http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2015/05/mekong-dams/nijhuis-text

http://www.internationalrivers.org/resources/the-lower-mekong-dams-factsheet-text-7908

About Gene Ramsay

Dr. Gene Ramsay is an industry leader in supply chain distribution technology. He has both developed and implemented supply chain network design software in industries such as natural gas distribution, beverage production, chemical distribution and maritime shipping.

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