Navigating the Nexus

Understanding the food and water trade-offs generated by hydropower development

Navigating the Nexus

Achieving economic growth, social equity and national security depends partly on stocks and flows of ecosystem goods and services. However, policy decisions are often made without due consideration of environmental consequences.

By 2030, 88 dams will be built in the Mekong river system. Research suggests the scale of development will result in a net loss of fish protein available to local and international consumers of 23-38%.

The Luc Hoffmann Institute (LHI) Navigating the Nexus project provides new empirical information on these food-energy-water trade-offs (often referred to as the Nexus) and climate change impacts in the Mekong river basin.

Two important strands of work were completed in this two-year project. One was to establish a conceptual understanding of the food-energy-water nexus within the basin. The second was to explore the relatively overlooked connection between changing water availability and flow and the nutrition and livelihood impacts on vulnerable farmers in Cambodia and Vietnam.

Taking a case-study approach, this research produces new evidence on the socioeconomic impacts of high-yield rice production in the Mekong Delta and the consequences of intensifying rice production in Cambodia. It has also produced critical new information on groundwater availability in Cambodia.

WWF partners and the Greater Mekong Programme have confirmed that the research will contribute to the body of evidence on the negative impacts of mainstem damming of the Mekong River. The project has provided LHI Fellow, Kien van Nguyen, a platform for continued professional and academic development that supports his ongoing engagement with the Southern Committee on the sustainable development of the Mekong Delta. He has also been able to network with like-minded individuals in Cambodia identified through the LHI LIVES project.


Main Image: © Elizabeth Kemp / WWF

Project partners

Project leaders

Dr. Jamie Pittock (ANU), Stuart Orr (WWF International), Dr Marc Goichot (WWF Greater Mekong), Dr Kien van Nguyen (ANU/An Giang University, Vietnam), Dr Louise Gallagher (LHI).

Project development

The project proposal was received from WWF International and ANU in 2013/2014. It was evaluated and recommended by a WWF panel before being accepted into the LHI portfolio.

Start date:   1 December 2014
End date:   31 December 2016  

Chris JohnsonNavigating the Nexus