Australia Backs MRC Basin Development Plan

Vientiane, Lao PDR, 19th Feb 2008

Efforts to create a sustainable water resource management strategy across the entire Lower Mekong Basin received a boost today when the Government of Australia and the Mekong River Commission (MRC) signed agreements to support the MRC’s Basin Development Plan and fund technical coordination within the river basin organisation’s Secretariat.

Under the agreements, signed by Dr Michele Forster, Australian Ambassador to the Lao PDR, and Mr Navuth Te, Officer-in-Charge of the MRC Secretariat at the MRCS headquarters in Vientiane, Australia will contribute US$450,000 to the Basin Development Plan Programme. The programme works with the MRC’s Member States and development partners to identify and prioritise projects across the basin. Another US$202,500 will be provided to fund technical expertise within the MRCS.

Australia’s contribution, described by Mr Navuth as “financially significant and symbolic of Australia’s commitment to trans-boundary cooperation in water management matters” comes just as Phase 2 of the Basin Development Plan is getting fully underway. A Stakeholder Forum is planned for March 12-13 to introduce the programme to the public and gain input from partners and different sectors of society.

The whole Basin Development Plan Programme, to be implemented over the next three years, will create development scenarios to assess the potential and constraints of possible water resource use options across the Mekong Basin. The results of this assessment will guide the formulation of an integrated water resource management strategy and a portfolio of projects.

Dr Forster described the MRC’s role in management of the Mekong River as critical. Australia is a valued partner of MRC initiatives in Cambodia, the Lao PDR, Thailand and Viet Nam, having already committed funding to administrative support and capacity-building programmes. This assistance to the Basin Development Plan will underpin all MRC efforts to promote sustainable use of the water in the Mekong and its tributary rivers.

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