Field surveys begin in Mekong River for CounterMEASURE Phase 2
Mar 31, 2021

CounterMEASURE 2 has kicked off field surveys in locations along the Mekong River, carrying on the journey of mapping plastic leakage and hotspots in Asian rivers. After a series of meetings, consultations and workshops with project partners and stakeholders in Lower Mekong Countries, initial studies have begun in Ubon Ratchathani, Thailand, with other project sites soon to follow.

The surveys are taking a number of forms.

Working with the Mekong River Commission Secretariat (MRCS), the CounterMEASURE team has identified 12 ports and piers along the Mekong where they will assess plastic leakage and accumulation. These ports and piers are not the only microplastic survey locations, with a number of other areas being surveyed in the project’s six sites along the Mekong.

CounterMEASURE project sites

The CounterMEASURE and MRCS teams will also be looking at the impact of plastic debris pollution on freshwater fauna as part of the survey.

Meanwhile, CounterMEASURE partner Pirika has been consulting with local partners to map out microplastic sampling points. To conduct the sampling, Pirika will be using their unique “Albatross” device, which was initially rolled out in CounterMEASURE’s Phase 1, and providing training to local partners on how to use the device. 

Microplastic surveying in Ubon Ratchathani, Thailand with the Albatross

Another layer of information will come from citizen scientists. The Geoinformatic Center (GIC) at the Asian Institute of Technology has developed a mobile phone application tool that will allow citizen scientists to survey illegal dumping sites and waste accumulation at artificial barriers in waterways. CounterMEASURE is targeting at least 100 survey points at each project site and about 600 locations in the Mekong River Basin as a whole. GIC has also begun preparation of the data inventory sheet so that local partners will know what data they need to collect for GIC to add to the GIS model of plastic accumulation and leakage.

With the technical approach to surveys mapped out, local partners such as Mae Fah Luang University, National University of Lao, Ubon Ratchathani University, Royal University of Phnom Penh, and Can Tho University have convened their teams to outline how to conduct surveys effectively and scientifically. The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) offices in Lower Mekong Basin countries and UN offices in Vietnam have also supported these efforts.

As the pandemic situation becomes more predictable, surveys will continue to be rolled out across project sites.