The Greater Mekong region holds irreplaceable riches ranging from rare wildlife in spectacular natural landscapes to communities with distinct cultural heritages. Cambodia, nestled between Thailand, Laos and Vietnam, offers lush forests, crucial wetlands, and a healthy stretch of the Mekong River—all of which play important roles in water provisions, food security, local livelihoods, and economic development. Furthermore, Cambodia hosts one of the last remaining populations of Irrawaddy dolphins.
Yet as the region continues to enjoy a booming economy, Cambodia and its neighbors are faced with the challenge of balancing legitimate needs for development while safeguarding their natural treasures that are increasingly under threat. Freshwater resources remain particularly at risk, as the impact of development decisions are rarely known.
Report cards bring together diverse stakeholders, help them reach consensus on the values of shared freshwater resources, and ultimately package information about the state of these values in an accessible, easy-to-understand format. Now equipped with a better understanding of the state of the basin, report card users ask, ‘What can be done?’ How can they raise the grades?
The Luc Hoffmann’s LIVES project may help provide answers. This approach to creating systems models can describe the complex relationships between the goals stakeholders have for their basins, and the levers that can be used to achieve those goals.
Combining report card development with LIVES can further drive science-based sustainable management of basins and their resources for people and nature in a changing world. We are testing this in Cambodia, where the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, Luc Hoffman Institute, and WWF are working together to develop a report card grounded by system dynamics modeling. We are also taking this opportunity to identify strategies to overcome some of the challenges commonly faced by report card development, including climate change variability and gaps in data.