Carl Middleton teaches and researches in international development studies and environmental politics. He graduated with a Ph.d. in environmental chemistry from the University of Manchester, UK. He is director of the Center for Social development Studies (CSDS) in the Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University, Thailand.
Analyzing the coproduction of ecological knowledge and transboundary water governance on the Lancang-Mekong River through a hydrosocial lens
The Lancang-Mekong River has been increasingly engineered by large dams, including on the mainstream in both China and Laos, changing the river’s hydrology and ecology, and with subsequent implications for riparian livelihoods. The electricity generated is destined for the region’s largest electricity markets, namely Thailand, China and Vietnam. Whilst early inter-governmental cooperation was framed around the Mekong River Commission (MRC), in 2016 the China-led Lancang-Mekong Cooperation Framework (LMCF) was launched reflecting the shifting geopolitics in the region and the growing influence of China. With a focus on the MRC and LMCF, this research will engage with the already substantial volume of research on Lancang-Mekong hydropolitics, examining how recent and ongoing ecological knowledge production is both productive of, and produced by, ecological governance and associated hydrosocial territories. The research hypothesizes that through both the MRC and the LMCF, water is increasingly understood by States as an economic resource that links visions and the hydrosocial territories of regional economic integration and water commodification. However, these plans remain contested, and alternatives have been proposed that envision the Lancang-Mekong as a locality where water is central to riparian livelihoods and wellbeing. It is asked how convergences might be built upon - and divergences addressed in transboundary water governance, with an emphasis on ensuring inclusion and social justice, and to what extent ‘the commons’ is a relevant concept to be built upon?