International Journal of Water Governance
Carl Middleton (Deputy Director, CSDS) and John Dore (Visiting Fellow, Fenner School of Environment and Society, Australian National University and University Fellow, Research Institute for the Environment and Livelihoods, Charles Darwin University)
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In mainland Southeast Asia, plans for extensive hydropower development and regional power trade are increasingly underway with implications for transboundary water governance. This paper maps out the context, drivers, tools and arenas of water and electricity decision making, and examines the linkages and disjunctures between regional electricity and water governance frameworks. In the Lower Mekong Basin, transboundary water governance has been shaped by the intergovernmental Mekong River Commission. Meanwhile, planning of regional power trade is being shaped by the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) program. These regional institutions are founded upon and interact with national institutions, and are molded by historical circumstances, regional geopolitics, and present day development pathways. Linkages between electricity governance and water governance, whilst generally weak and replete with power asymmetries, are identified including Environmental Impact Assessment and Strategic Environmental Assessment tools. Disjunctures include state sovereignty and limited overlapping actors between electricity and water governance arenas. We argue that furthering deliberative tools that build upon existing linkages could catalyze greater interaction and contestation within arenas, and thus closen integration of regional water and electricity governance arrangements. The goal would be informed and democratized decision-making on meeting electricity demand whilst sustaining the multiple benefits that the region’s rivers’ provide.