Adaptation to climate change has become one of the focal points of current development discussion. This article summarises the findings from a multidisciplinary research project looking at climate change impacts and adaptation in the Mekong River Basin in Southeast Asia. The research highlights the central role that the hydrological cycle has in mediating climate change impacts on ecosystems and societies. The findings indicate that climate change should not be studied in isolation, as there are several other factors that are affecting the hydrological cycle. In the Mekong, the most important such factor is the on-going hydropower development that is likely to induce changes at least as radical as climate change, but with shorter timescales. The article concludes that climate change adaptation should broaden its view to consider environmental changes likely to occur due to different factors at various spatial and temporal scales. It is also important to recognise that climate change adaptation is a dynamic, development-orientated process that should consider also broader socio-political context. To enable this, we propose that an area-based adaptation approach should be used more actively to complement the dominant sector-based approaches.
Keywords: adaptation policies, climate change adaptation, livelihoods, Mekong Delta, Tonle Sap, water resources management