Vientiane, Lao PDR, 27th Aug 2010
Representatives from the Mekong River Commission (MRC) Member Countries of Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand and Viet Nam are meeting with Chinese and Myanmar officials this week in Phnom Penh. They discuss opportunities for increased levels of cooperation in managing the upper and lower Mekong River Basins.
The meeting discusses expansion of cooperation in data and information sharing; further cooperation in assessing the opportunities and impacts of proposed upstream and downstream hydropower schemes; increased initiatives for joint environmental management; and enhanced navigation between the MRC Member Countries and the two upstream countries says the inter-governmental Mekong river basin organisation.
Today’s meeting is the first since the Hua Hin Summit in April this year. At the Summit, representatives of the Chinese and Myanmar governments indicated a strong willingness to work at a much closer level with downstream countries.
“We have already made a lot of progress since the Summit and will be discussing a range of options that have been explored in the past few months for increasing the areas where we can further work together,” said Jeremy Bird, CEO of the MRC Secretariat at the opening of the meeting today.
“For example, the training course on flood and disaster risk management organised by China in June 2010 for Mekong countries was an excellent first step to future capacity building in the region,” said Mr. Bird.
China and Myanmar have a long-standing agreement on cooperation with the MRC and have been Dialogue Partners with the organisation since 1996 with China providing upstream hydro-meteorological data during the wet season since 2002 that the MRC says plays an important role in its flood forecasting.
China says at the meeting that “its government is ready to continue to deepen its cooperation with the neighbours to promote common progress and development in the region.”
“I’m confident that a prosperous Mekong region is not far away, given our joint efforts,” said Mr. Diao Mingsheng, head of delegation of the People’s Republic of China to the meeting.
“Our continued cooperation has brought substantial benefits to all the people in the riparian countries, and the Chinese government always attaches much importance to the dialogue with the MRC and will continuously offer our strong support to contribute to the sustainable development of the Lancang-Mekong sub-region,” added Mr. Diao.
The MRC says that China in particular has intensified its cooperation with downstream Lancang/Mekong countries. In June a delegation of MRC Member Countries and its Secretariat officials visited the recently built Xiaowan and Jing Hong dams on the Lancang River in Yunnan and met officials in Beijing where the MRC says that China provided information on the planning and design of its hydropower projects and confirmed that the natural minimum flow downstream will not be reduced and that adequate standards of water quality will be maintained.
The visit followed on from two visits made to Yunnan by MRC modelling and hydropower experts who, together with Chinese agencies, providing inputs to the on-going Strategic Environmental Assessment of proposed mainstream dams in the mainstream of the Lower Mekong Basin.
“China is increasingly recognising the mutual benefits of adopting a more open approach to the trans-boundary management of water resources in the basin and today’s meeting, as well as the joint efforts that have continued throughout the year, are examples of an increasingly strong cooperation that will lead to a better understanding and awareness of both the risks and opportunities associated with upstream developments on downstream countries,” said Mr. Bird.
The cooperation with Myanmar, the MRC says, has been furthered by recent mission of the MRC Member Countries and the MRC to Yangon and Naypyidaw to follow up on areas of cooperation as committed at the MRC Summit in April.
“We would like to reaffirm our continuous cooperation with the MRC through the well-established mechanisms in areas of drought management, navigation and climate change,” said H.E U Nyunt Hlaing, Ambassador of the Union of Myanmar to Lao PDR who led Myanmar delegation to the meeting. He said Myanmar is willing to further cooperate with the MRC and China in human resource development, technical cooperation, information sharing and active participation in MRC-facilitated events.
The Dialogue Meetings are an annual event whereby the MRC engages with its Dialogue Partners on its cooperation framework and discussions on how the four Member Countries of the MRC can increase their cooperation with the upstream neighbours.
Photos are available upon request.
China and Myanmar have been Dialogue Partners of the MRC since 1996 and regularly attend the annual Dialogue Meetings and technical meetings and provided information on the status of upstream developments.
Thematic areas of cooperation undertaken between the MRC and China since 2008 include study tours for MRC and Member Country experts to the Chanjiang (Yangtze) River Commission to learn about flood management systems and techniques; a joint workshop on navigation safety held in Jing Hong, joint working arrangements between MRCS and the Ecosystem Study Commission for International Rivers (ESCIR) on the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) of Proposed Hydropower Projects on the Mekong Mainstream; presentations by Chinese specialists to various multi-stakeholder forums of the MRC's Basin Development Plan (BDP) Programme and Initiative on Sustainable Hydropower (ISH); and a visit of MRC's modeling team to China for discussions on model comparisons with Chinese counterparts. Most recently China's MWR has offered a training course on Flood Control and Disaster Mitigation for staff from MRC Member Countries and MRCS and, as a result of the extremely low flow conditions in the Lancang-Mekong River in 2010, China shared hydrological data during this season as a special measure of cooperation.
The Summit meeting mentioned in the story above took place in the coastal town of Hua Hin, Thailand between 2 and 5 April 2010 and marked 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. Particular topics highlighted in a statement made by the Head of Chinese Delegation at the Hua Hin Summit for strengthening cooperation with the MRC included navigation; tourism; the Strategic Environmental Assessment for hydropower; environmental protection; climate change; agriculture and irrigation; flood prevention and disaster mitigation; and the exchange of technical staff.
A full summary of discussions and outcomes of the Summit can be seen at: http://www.mrcsummit2010.org
The MRC is the inter-governmental 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.
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