A deeper understanding of vulnerabilities experienced by local populations and the forging of community-level responses are vital to climate change adaptation, experts said at an international workshop on April 27.

The workshop is titled "Preparedness and Adaptive Capacity to Mekong Environmental Changes and Climate Risks".

The workshop brought together experts, government officials and non-governmental organisations from countries along the Mekong River Basin and around the world.

"An analysis of local vulnerability and adaptive capacity is crucial," said Dr Charles Ehrhart, a climate change coordinator from CARE International Vietnam.

"Activities to build household and community resilience must be community-based," he added, explaining that community-based means "of" and "by" communities.

Experts also stressed that adaptation to climate change had to be a continuous process that is sustainable and oriented towards longer-term livelihood security.

The exercise as a whole should be focused on finding alternatives, Ehrhart said.

Aslam Perwaiz, Programme manager of the Asian Disaster Preparedness Centre, recommended training hamlet leaders and farmers on coping strategies, bringing science to community and generating awareness on environmental risks and climate change.

He said that increased weather variability and severity have been observed by local authorities in the Mekong Delta provinces of An Giang and Ben Tre.

These anomalies include floods, droughts, riverbank landslides, water pollution and salinity intrusion, and epidemics among human and livestock populations. The workshop was part of the Mekong Environment and Climate Symposium organised by the Vientiane-based Mekong River Commission (MRC).

During the two-day symposium, the current status, knowledge, relevant activities and actions related to Mekong environment and climate change were discussed and summarised.

Other workshops during the symposium discussed methodologies and tools for protecting the Mekong environment, environmental knowledge sharing, bridging environmental policy, decision makers and stakeholders and conservation plans of action.

"It's important that people of the Mekong region work together and share knowledge and skills," said Pornsook Chongprasith, director of the Environment Division of the MRC.

"We need, more than ever, to engage stakeholders to participate in the efforts," she added./.