Rapid Change in Mekong Basin Brings Both Opportunity and Risk

Danang, Viet Nam, 3rd Apr 2008

The opportunities and risks that come with economic growth were the main topics of discussion at the 27th Joint Committee Meeting of the Mekong River Commission (MRC) in Danang, Viet Nam, this week.

Viet Nam’s Vice Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development, H.E. Dr Dao Xuan Hoc, described the current situation in the region as “a period of exciting development in Southeast Asia, with the countries of the Mekong River Basin experiencing strong economic growth”. The Vice Minister said that “with growth comes rapid change, which always carries some social and environmental risks”.

As defined in the 1995 Agreement on the Cooperation for the Sustainable Development of the Mekong River Basin, the MRC Joint Committee should “regularly obtain, update and exchange information and data necessary to implement the Agreement”. The 27th meeting of this Committee allowed the MRC Member States of Cambodia, the Lao PDR, Thailand and Viet Nam to hold discussions on the issues central to development of the basin’s water resources.

Joint Committee Chairman Nguyen Hong Toan acknowledged that, given the amount of activity involving basin water resources either already underway or being discussed at high levels, “much attention is being paid to the role that the MRC will play as events proceed. This attention comes from environmental groups, civil society and non-governmental organisations, but also from the development partners that fund the MRC, from government agencies whose plans and projects will be affected by water developments, and from the general public”.

Mr Toan asserted that the MRC must play a key role in ensuring that plans for using the resources of the Mekong and its tributaries are coordinated and backed by proper scientific, socio-economic and environmental assessment.

The meeting, held April 2-3, marked the first public appearance and MRC engagement for Jeremy Bird, the new Chief Executive Officer of the organisation’s Secretariat. Mr Bird said that he looked forward to working with all parties involved in addressing the development challenges facing the basin, and to further strengthening the MRC’s role. On the administrative side, Mr Bird reported to the Committee that the financial situation of the MRC was sound and that the Member Countries had shown an increased sense of ownership over the past year. The meeting approved the MRC Annual Report for 2007, reached agreement on the next steps for improving the monitoring and evaluation procedures of MRC programmes, and decided that the MRC Secretariat will, within the next three months, examine the framework for hosting a forum of stakeholders interested in discussing major development issues in the basin, including hydropower.

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For more information

Mr. Damian Kean, Interim Communication Advisor
Tel: +856 56120695 or +856 21 263 263 Ext. 4703
Email: damian@mrcmekong.org

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