20 March 2023 – Representatives from the Republic of Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mekong Institute in its capacity as the coordinator of the Mekong-Republic of Korea Cooperation Fund (MKCF), and the project team of the “Information and Communication Technology (ICT) for Adaptation to Climate Change and Forest Fire Management in Mekong Region” convened virtually for the launch of this new project. Supported by the MKCF, the project focuses on the one hand on addressing forest fires through the use of ICT-based technology. At the same time, it will train government and stakeholders how to use the ICT-based system while enhancing international cooperation among the Mekong countries.
In his opening speech, Mr. Orlando A. Panganiban, Director, Project and Program Division of Asian Forest Cooperation Organization (AFoCO) Secretariat, explained the impetus behind the intervention, saying, “Forest fires are a critical environmental issue in the region as they are becoming more frequent and intense, causing severe ecological and socio-economic damage. Forest fire are both a national and trans-boundary issue and affect forests resources, biodiversity, and the health of society while also contributing to the ill effects of climate change across ecosystems and landscapes.” He emphasized that inclusive participation of communities and government is key to achieving an integrated ICT-based forest fire management system.
Mr. Madhurjya K. Dutta, MI Director of Trade and Investment Facilitation and MKCF, highlighted the urgency of the issue which is of a regional nature. The development of such an innovative ICT application to monitor forest fires will significantly help in remote reporting and contribute to enhancing the health and well-being of the people in the Mekong region.
Dr. Park Junghwan, AFoCO, project manager, outlined the ambitious objectives of the project. By the end of the project, the following shall be achieved:
- Forest fire vulnerability and other forest threats will be assessed
- Smart ICT technology of forest fire detection, monitoring, reporting, and deployment of response in Cambodia and Viet Nam will be adapted
- Public awareness campaign of forest fire vulnerability and other forest threats will be organized
- Government agencies, communities, and private partners in mobilizing collaborative forest fire and other threats prevention, detection, monitoring, and reporting by ICT platform will be capacitated
- Lessons and experiences from the Mekong Region and AFoCO member countries will be shared.
With funding of $1 million, the project will be implemented in Cambodia and Viet Nam due to their strategic location, with activities running from February 2023 – November 2025. Implementation with be led by Dr. Park Junghwan, AFoCO, Project Manager, Mr. Vireak Chhorn (Cambodia), and Mr. Mai Ha An (Viet Nam) as the Project Coordinators.