Updated  
April, 03 2014 09:07:00

Mekong summit calls for greater riparian co-operation

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 transboundary 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

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