Hua Hin conference calls on Mekong leaders to balance economic development with protection of water resources

Hau Hin, Thailand, 03 Apr 2010

International water experts meeting in Hua Hin have today released a statement calling upon the governments of the Mekong River Basin to work together to protect water resources in the region when considering any future development projects.

After two days of discussions, more than 200 international experts, from NGOs, River Basin Organisations and government agencies in the fields of hydropower, water resource management and environmental protection released a message stressing the urgency of joint action in climate change, improving water quality and protecting the economic and poverty alleviation potential of the Mekong Basin, says the Mekong River Commission (MRC), which organized the event.

“The overall message agreed to by participants in the conference is clear: the economic, social and environmental prosperity of Mekong countries depends on how we protect and share the benefits of our common water resources through cooperative mechanisms,” said Jeremy Bird, CEO of the MRC.

Among other things, the statement; which will be presented to Prime Minister’s from Mekong countries who will also meet in Hua Hin on Monday; draws attention to the challenge of adapting to the potential impacts of climate change on water resources in the basin, which are expected to include increased frequency and intensity of floods and droughts, and also significant sea level rise. It calls on countries in the basin to begin to strengthen disaster risk management and to emphasise water security for the poorest people in the basin, who the international experts at the conference agreed are most likely to suffer under the expected impacts of global warming.

The release of the statement is timely, coming at a time when Yunan Province in China, northern Lao PDR and Thailand are experiencing a severe dry period and low river levels. The MRC has said in the past that this is the kind of effect likely if future climate change predictions come true.

The conference also called for all parties in the basin to be more open with the provision of trans-boundary water related data, claiming in the statement that “Transparent access to current and accurate water resources information throughout the basin is essential. Monitoring of rainfall, flows and water quality is a perquisite for building cooperation. Data needs to be shared for trans-boundary cooperation to develop effectively.” Delegates also called for increasing the involvement of civil society stakeholders in planning activities and decision making processes for river developments.

Although a recent report by the MRC said that water quality in the Mekong was mostly rated “excellent” for the protection of aquatic life, the conference called on Mekong countries to focus on improving water quality. “International experience confirms that the rehabilitation of river water quality takes considerable time and is more costly than managing waste water discharge and preventing pollution and spills,” said the statement.

The controversial issue of hydropower was also included in the statement, with the conference acknowledging that hydropower and infrastructure development on the river could have significant benefits for Mekong countries, but that “These infrastructure developments need to adequately address the social and ecosystems impacts that result from those investments, including those across administrative boundaries,” it said.

Mekong River Commission P.O. Box 6101, Vientiane 01000, Lao PDR Telephone: (856-21) 263 263 Facsimile: (856-21) 263 264 Email: mrcs@mrcmekong.org Website: www.mrcmekong.org “Water is life, and our increasing demands for food and energy depends on our ability to work together to develop and manage this precious resource, while protecting the unique environment of our river basins upon which millions of people and other living creatures depend,” said Mr. Bird, echoing the sentiment of the conference statement.

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Notes to Editors

Full text of the declaration statement and a list of attendees is available on request MRC International Conference: “Trans-boundary Water Resources Management in a Changing World,” 2-3 April 2010, Hua Hin, Thailand

The International Technical Conference took place at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, Hua Hin 2-3 April 2010 and marks the 15 year anniversary of the signing of the 1995 Agreement on the Cooperation for the Sustainable Development of the Mekong River Basin, which established the independent Mekong River Commission as an international agency.

Discussion Topics of the Conference:

  • Water Resources for food security and poverty reduction – including navigation for international trade and poverty reduction.
  • Water resources and biodiversity conservation and sustainable livelihoods including sustainable hydropower
  • Global climate change and implications on the Mekong.
  • National policies and enabling framework for trans-boundary Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM)
  • Role of RBOs for IWRM at basin level in the context of basin/ international challenges.
  • Sustainability of international RBOs in the changing world and integration mechanisms within riparian countries.
  • The statement agreed to by the international conference will be presented to delegates for their consideration at the subsequent Prime Minister’s Summit on 5 April 2010, which will be attended by Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen, Prime Minister, Royal Government of Cambodia; H.E. Mr. Bouasone Bouphavanh, Prime Minister, Lao PDR; H.E. Mr. Nguyen Tan Dung, Prime Minister, The Socialist Republic of Viet Nam; H.E. Abhisit Vejjajiva, Prime Minister, Royal Kingdom of Thailand; and high level delegates from China and Myanmar.

The MRC is the intergovernmental body responsible for cooperation on the sustainable management of the Mekong Basin whose members include Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand and Viet Nam. In dealing with this challenge, it looks across all sectors including sustaining fisheries, identifying opportunities for agriculture, maintaining the freedom of navigation, flood management and preserving important ecosystems. Superimposed on these are the future effects of more extreme floods, prolonged drought and sea level rise associated with climate change. In providing its advice, the MRC aims to facilitate a broad range of dialogue among governments, the private sector and civil society on these challenges.

For More Information, please contact:

Damian Kean, Communication Advisor,
Tel: +856 20 752 7500 (Lao PDR)
+ 66 861 030 710 (Thailand)
e-mail: damian@mrcmekong.org
www.mrcmekong.org

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