Phnom Penh, Cambodia, 1st Aug 2016 - 1st Aug 2016
Phnom, Penh, Cambodia, 1 August 2016 – It has been 20 years since the Mekong River Commission held its first Dialogue Meeting with its upstream partners China and Myanmar. Since then, the Dialogue Partners, as both countries are known within the MRC, have cooperated in several areas of water management, especially in sharing hydrological information and exchanging expertise.
At the 20th Annual Dialogue Meeting held in Phnom Penh, Cambodia on 29 July 2016, China and Myanmar reflected on this long-term cooperation and renewed their commitment to the MRC amid rapid development and new challenges such as climate change.
“China adheres to the principle of amity, sincerity, mutual benefits and inclusiveness in its neighbourhood diplomacy (…) We would like to reaffirm our commitment to enhancing dialogue and mutual trust with the MRC in various fields like hydrological information, navigation, flood prevention, personnel training and technical exchanges”, said Mr. Li Hong, Permanent Representative of China to UNESCAP.
Myanmar sees increased cooperation with the MRC as a good opportunity to apply the organisation’s expertise, experience and activities in the Mekong River Basin, to the Ayeyarwady River Basin, which shares common issues such as sedimentation, water quality, navigation, flood and drought management.
“Most of the activities are really useful and effective for our AIRBM (Ayeyarwady Integrated River Basin Management) project in Myanmar. We are willing to learn about hydrology, hydrodynamics, numerical modeling, GIS, navigation, basin planning, basin development strategy, etc. from the MRC”, said Mr. Aung Myo Khaing, Deputy Director from the Directorate of Water Resources and Improvement of River Systems, Ministry of Transport and Communications of Myanmar. He added that previous work experience with the MRC is one of the main criteria for selecting international advisers for their project. In the upcoming months Myanmar will request technical support from the MRC in hydrological and hydraulic modelling.
In April 2002, China signed an agreement with the MRC to provide water-level data in the flood season from two stations located on the Lancang River, as the Mekong is known in China. The information feeds into the MRC’s flood forecasting system. In 2013, both parties renewed the agreement and China extended the period for sharing data from four to five months (from the beginning of June to the end of October). It also agreed to increase the frequency of the data sent to the MRC from once to twice a day, and expressed its willingness to share the data during the dry season in case of drought emergencies. The extension of the agreement was a sign of continuous trust between the MRC and China.
The positive results of MRC-China cooperation were evident earlier this year as part of the region’s response to the severe drought caused by the El Niño weather phenomenon, which sees Pacific water temperatures rise and leads to droughts and severe weather worldwide. On 15 March 2016, China implemented its Emergency Water Supplement to the Mekong River by increasing the discharge of the Jinghong Reservoir to 2000 m3/s until 10 April 2016, despite its domestic drought situation. The MRC and China will soon release a joint report on their observations and evaluations of the emergency supplement.
To take cooperation to the next level, China and the MRC expect to embark on a joint study to assess the role and impact of the Lancang hydropower cascade on the Mekong River in the dry season. The study aims at exploring further upstream-downstream collaboration, foster technical cooperation and clarify doubts pertaining to hydropower development in the upstream and downstream countries. There is a possibility of including Myanmar in the study, although China and the MRC are still discussing the details of the proposal.
China and the MRC plan to hold a third Technical Symposium in 2017 focusing on hydropower development. The previous two events were successful in maintaining their cooperation and communication channels open, and the exchange of technical expertise.
The latest Annual Dialogue Meeting touched on the need to search for common ground amid the countries’ various development needs. The MRC member states, China and Myanmar highlighted the importance of coordination among sub-regional mechanisms such as the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation Mechanism, GMS and the MRC, which could complement each other in their quest for a riparian community of shared resources and prosperity.