Transboundary Water and Electricity Governance in mainland Southeast Asia

Linkages, Disjunctures and Implications


  • Carl Middleton Faculty of Political Science | Chulalongkorn University
  • John Dore Research Institute for the Environment and Livelihoods | Charles Darwin University


Mekong River, Water Governance, Electricity Governance, Southeast Asia


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.


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How to Cite

Middleton, C. ., & Dore, J. . (2015). Transboundary Water and Electricity Governance in mainland Southeast Asia: Linkages, Disjunctures and Implications. International Journal of Water Governance, 3(1), 93–120. Retrieved from

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