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Managing the mighty Mekong

Update: April, 12/2014 - 12:00

The Mekong River, and all the smaller rivers and streams that flow into it, pass through a number of countries.

They are China, Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, and Viet Nam.

Many people in these countries live off the river.

It is therefore important that the river is not ruined and that it is developed properly.

To do this, the governments of all these countries need to work well together.

HCM CITY (VNS)— Mekong River riparian countries have improved co-operation since the first Mekong River Commission (MRC) summit held in Thailand four years ago, a senior Vietnamese official has said.

Deputy Minister of Natural resources and Environment Nguyen Thai Lai, an alternate member of the MRC Council representing Viet Nam, speaking yesterday at the preparatory meeting for the second summit to be held in HCM City this week, said: "Since the first meeting member countries have performed some tasks that we assessed as very important, such as developing a joint strategy for developing the Mekong River and a plan to manage the river till 2015, and determining standards for the quality of water which had been under debate earlier.

"The member countries have also agreed with instructions to build hydropower dams according to international standards.

"The spirit of co-operation among the member countries is very good.

"With a fast growing population and economy, achieving water, energy, and food security is vital for us.

"The trans-boundary dimension of this challenge is obvious, not least for food production in the Mekong Delta, but also for us to harvest our hydropower potential to satisfy fast growing energy needs."

Water resources are limited but demand for water for socio-economic development is increasing, he said.

Zhong Young, director general, Department of International Cooperation, Science and Technology at China's Ministry of Water Resources, said China, which shares rivers directly with 13 countries, wants co-operation with these countries.

It has set up multiple transboundary river co-operation mechanisms with 12 neighbouring countries, including Viet Nam, which have promoted exchanges and co-operation in providing hydrological data during the flood season, flood control, protection of water resources, and others, he said.

"The Lancang – Mekong River links six riparian countries closely. China is ready to enhance co-operation with downstream countries to jointly cope with the water, energy, and food security challenges facing the greater Mekong sub-region in the context of global climate change."

Water, energy, food

The Mekong region is not only seeing increased demands for water, energy, and food but is also confronted with changing weather conditions that have affected agricultural production among others.

Rapid development in the region, including tributary and mainstream hydropower projects, planned water diversion for increased irrigation, navigation, and aquaculture, has implications for food and water supplies.

The rising sea level has caused saltwater intrusion that has affected food production.

Meanwhile, unusually high rainfall in mid-December last year resulted in unprecedented fluctuations in water levels and flows and muddier water in southern Laos and northern Cambodia, the MRC said in a press release.

The summit gathers heads of governments of the member countries — Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Viet Nam — and delegations from China and Myanmar besides more than 300 senior representatives of some 20 international river basins and aquifers from all continents, and more than 20 international sponsors to discuss the most pressing issues related to the Mekong River and its resources.

The summit, to be held on Saturday, aims to revive trans-boundary cooperation and seek the political will of the national leaders to work together to overcome constraints and challenges facing the sustainable development of the Mekong River Basin. — VNS

GLOSSARY

Mekong River riparian countries have improved co-operation since the first Mekong River Commission (MRC) summit held in Thailand four years ago, a senior Vietnamese official has said.

Riparian means to do with river banks.

Co-operation means working together.

A summit is a meeting involving heads of governments.

Deputy Minister of Natural resources and Environment Nguyen Thai Lai, an alternate member of the MRC Council representing Viet Nam, speaking yesterday at the preparatory meeting for the second summit to be held in HCM City this week, said: "Since the first meeting member countries have performed some tasks that we assessed as very important, such as developing a joint strategy for developing the Mekong River and a plan to manage the river till 2015, and determining standards for the quality of water which had been under debate earlier.

A preparatory meeting is a meeting to prepare for a more important meeting later on.

To assess something means to work it out.

A joint strategy is a plan that more than one person, or group of people, will carry out together.

If something is under debate, people are talking about it and arguing different points.

"The member countries have also agreed with instructions to build hydropower dams according to international standards.

Hydropower is power that is made by capturing energy from moving water.

"The trans-boundary dimension of this challenge is obvious, not least for food production in the Mekong Delta, but also for us to harvest our hydropower potential to satisfy fast growing energy needs."

The trans-boundary dimension means the fact that different countries are involved.

To harvest hydropower potential means to take electricity from wherever you can if you have lots of running water from which you can capture energy to make electricity.

"China is ready to enhance co-operation with downstream countries to jointly cope with the water, energy, and food security challenges facing the greater Mekong sub-region in the context of global climate change."

Enhance means increase.

By seeing something in context means understanding it in its circumstances.

Rapid development in the region, including tributary and mainstream hydropower projects, planned water diversion for increased irrigation, navigation, and aquaculture, has implications for food and water supplies.

A tributary is a river that flows into a bigger river rather than into the ocean.

A mainstream is a river that tributaries may join and ends up in the sea.

When water is diverted, it is made to flow through new areas.

Navigation means working out where to go while on a journey, especially using instruments and maps.

Aquaculture means farming things that live in water such as fish.

Meanwhile, unusually high rainfall in mid-December last year resulted in unprecedented fluctuations in water levels and flows and muddier water in southern Laos and northern Cambodia, the MRC said in a press release.

When there are unprecendented fluctuations in water levels, the water levels rise and fall in a way they have never done in the past.

The summit gathers heads of governments of the member countries — Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Viet Nam — and delegations from China and Myanmar besides more than 300 senior representatives of some 20 international river basins and aquifers from all continents, and more than 20 international sponsors to discuss the most pressing issues related to the Mekong River and its resources.

Delegations are groups of people who attend big meetings.

A river basin is the entire area that drains into a river. It may include mountain ranges and valleys. International river basins are those that fall into more than one country.

An aquifer is a body of underground rock that holds water.

Pressing issues are important things that must be dealt with.

The summit, to be held on Saturday, aims to revive trans-boundary cooperation and seek the political will of the national leaders to work together to overcome constraints and challenges facing the sustainable development of the Mekong River Basin.

To revive something means to bring it back to life again.

Sustainable development means developing a place without ruining its natural resources and making sure there are still natural resources for the future.

WORKSHEET

State whether the following are true, or false:

1.      The Mekong is the only river in the world that flows through more than one country.

2.      Rising sea levels cause salt water to come up the Mekong River, which affects farming.

3.      A big meeting about the Mekong River was held in Thailand four years ago.

4.      The Mekong River does not flow through Laos.

5.      Zhong Young is Viet Nam's Deputy Minister of Natural Resources and Environment.

ANSWERS:

© Duncan Guy/Learn the News/ Viet Nam News 2014


























1. False; 2. True; 3. True; 4. False; 5. False.

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