Background and rationale

International Dialogue:

"Water, Happiness and Conscious Cooperation for the Peaceful and Prosperous Mekong River Basin" to be held online on Monday, 21 March 2022, 14h00 – 16h30, Bangkok time
(Celebrating the International Day of Happiness '20 Mar 2022' and the World Water Day '22 Mar 2022')

Background and rationale

Mekong river is one of the longest (12th in the world; 7th in Asia) and largest (10th in the world) rivers in the world. Length of the river is 4,880 km, covering basin area of 795,000 square kilometers and feeding altogether 326 million people. The mighty Mekong is a pride of its six riparian countries in particular and of Asia and the world in general. Mekong River provides water, esthetic beauty, food, energy, transport, employment, and opportunities for cooperation among six riparian countries, research, trade and tourism, and more. Mekong river comes from the high mountains of Qinghai province, passing through Tibet mountains along the length of Yunnan province (China), through Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia before entering Vietnam.
It also creates a unique culture for the places where it flows through, attracting many tourists to explore as a famous tourist destination. Linked by mountains and rivers, the six riparian countries feature cultural similarities as well as diversity, and enjoy profound traditional good neighborhood and friendship and share closely inter-connected security and development interests. The total trade of the region is about 60 billion US dollar with approximately 7% increase in GDP before the Covid-19 pandemic. Approximately 326 million peoples depend directly on Mekong river basin and people around the world benefited indirectly through networks, linkages, collaboration in many areas, and partnership. Interdependency between Mekong river basin (nearly 800,000 km2) and peoples around the world is very obvious.
Hence Mekong river basin became a center of attention on the world’s stage from numerous perspectives such as wealth of the river, health and sustainability, environment and biodiversity conservation, economy, trade, politics, culture, history, governance (national and transboundary), security, tradition, indigenous affairs and value, religion, happiness, development, cooperation, partnership, communication, transport, banking, science, technology, business, diplomacy, inclusiveness, etc. etc.,
Having a glance from the hydrology, transboundary, and flow wealth perspective, nearly half of Mekong river flows inside China. Most of its section has deep gorges. Leaving China, the river is only about 500 m above sea level. After that, a section which is about 200 km long forms the border between Myanmar and Laos. At the end of the border, the river joins the Ruak River in the Golden Triangle. This place is also the dividing point for Upper and Lower parts of the Mekong River.
The Mekong River then forms the border of Laos and Thailand before flowing into Laos in Bokeo province. The river in Laos is characterized by deep gorges, fast currents, and shallow pools of water which are about half a meter deep in the dry season. The river then forms the border of Laos and Thailand in the section flowing through Vientiane to Champasak province. The next is a short part in Laos with a tributary on the left bank that is Xe Don river flowing into Pak Se.
The Se Kong, Se San, and Sre Pok (3S Basin) are the main tributaries entering on the left bank of the Mekong. The Tonle Sap River drains the Great Lake (or Tonle Sap Lake) into the Mekong River during the dry season and reverses its flow during the rainy season. It is an outstanding hydrodynamic characteristic of the Mekong River, the role of water flow regulation by Tonlé Sap Lake.
Near the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh, the Bassac River, the Mekong’s largest distributary, branches off. This is where the Mekong Delta begins as the Mekong and Bassac Rivers enter a large fertile plain in southern Viet Nam. In this area, known as the ‘Nine Dragons’, a series of smaller distributaries split off from the main stream of the Mekong and Bassac. (Source: MRC Mekong Website)
The right branch Bassac River when flows into Vietnam, it is called Hau River and the left is Mekong River (or Tien River in Vietnam). Both flow into the vast delta region of South Vietnam, about 220–250 km long. The group of all nine major river branches in Vietnam is collectively referred to as the Mekong Delta or Cuu Long River (Nine-Dragon River). (Source: M-POWER programme, CPWF, CGIAR).
So far, at least four regional connectivity initiatives have been operational in the Mekong region:

(1)the Mekong River Commission (MRC) ,

(2) the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS),

(3) the Lower Mekong Initiative (LMI), and

(4) the Lancang Mekong Cooperation (LMC)


Moreover, a number of multi-institutional research initiatives on Mekong river basin exist with the support of the local and international researchers and research institutes.
Among others, the CPWF Project PN50 “Enhancing multi-scale water governance” was a flagship activity of the Mekong Program on Water, Environment Resilience (M-POWER). The goal of helping improve livelihood security, human and ecosystem health in the Mekong Region through democratizing water governance was pursued through critical research and direct engagement with stakeholders involved in managing floods, irrigation, hydropower, watersheds, fisheries and urban water works at various scales. The project identified common governance problems and suggested ways that some can be addressed. Often, for example, there are needs to: strengthen local representation, improve the quality of deliberative processes, enhance the interplay between institutions at different levels, and build capacities to handle uncertainties and adapt to changes in flow regimes.
To this extent, the International Research Associates for Happy Society (IRAH) established since 2007, saw an opportunity to contribute to above mentioned meaningful works in the Mekong Region with additional and important work on “happiness and peace”. IRAH approach is not only people-centered but also holistic wellbeing of human-centered, where human beings and nature mutually help sustain each other and happiness is essential as much as water, food and electricity. It is, in fact, a fair statement since human beings are either constructive or destructive forces, builders or destroyers of the world. From the very beginning of industrialization to date, human beings unintentionally altered the nature and the world by triggering the Climate Change and its consequences – water related disasters and other disasters – by uncontrolled greed, ignorance and lust. When looking at the composition of material development and spiritual development, the well- balanced communities/societies are happier than unbalanced communities/societies, which include material wealth and greed abundant but the spiritually poor (or) poverty stricken communities/societies.
IRAH belief that happiness is the ultimate goal of an individual human being. However, each and every individual measures happiness in his/her own way – defined by power, greed, sympathy, passion, bullying, intruding, giving, serving, charity, peace, support, justice, and/or sacrifices. To create a collective happiness that is more sustainable, well accepted by morally sound individuals and communities, the spiritual transformation and conscious cooperation is necessary in order to rewrite the new development paradigm!
Now is time to reverse current negative trend into positive by making conscious decisions to strike the balance. The Common Goal can be set to achieve “happiness for all” on Earth, however, we will begin with the Mekong River Basin populace and the peace and prosperity of the Mekong countries through conscious cooperation.
The new and sustained development do not measure economic prosperity alone. Instead, it conceptualized towards the goal of happiness that involves physical, mental, social and spiritual aspects including environmental aspect. Relationship among human and other beings / nature is essential for societal happiness that human beings have to realize the interdependence of their well-beings and others’. Inner happiness with mindfulness, compassion, and unexploited natural resources is essential to achieve sustainable development. To raise awareness of this need and conscious participation from multi-level governance decision makers, IRAH convened three international conferences in the past. This international dialogue on “Water, Happiness and Conscious Cooperation for peaceful and prosperous Mekong River Basin” is the 4th edition of IRAH’s attempt to create happy societies on Earth.
In the occasion of the International Day on Happiness (March 20) and World Water Day (March 22), IRAH organizes this forum to raise awareness and for conscious cooperation towards sustainable happiness as well as sustainable water resources and development as a part of the celebration of these two important days.
As a follow up of this international dialogue, IRAH hope to collaborate with the group of researchers and development organizational partners to work further on these issues and draw up public policy schemes, which need to be redesigned to increase individual and societal happiness. Please join us for co-creating happy society of Mekong countries.