Phnom Penh, Cambodia, 5th Apr 2008
The new Regional Flood Management and Mitigation Centre building has been officially opened in Phnom Penh, marking a vital step forward in avoiding loss of lives and the damage that flooding can bring.
In a ceremony to mark Mekong Day, April 5, H.E. Mr Lim Kean Hor, Cambodia’s Minister of Water Resources and Meteorology, and Chairman of the Mekong River Commission (MRC) Council, declared the state-of-the-art facility open, calling it “another milestone in the history of cooperation in the Lower Mekong Basin”. According to the Minister, the Centre “demonstrates the solidarity and will of Cambodia, the Lao PDR, Thailand and Viet Nam to continue their cooperation in the development and preservation of water resources and natural resources in the Mekong River Basin”.
In 2006 at least 224 people were killed by floods in the lower Mekong countries, while well over 12,000 homes were severely damaged. These conservative estimates show that flooding can have catastrophic effects on people’s lives, and it is well known that the poorest people are the most severely affected.
The new Chief Executive Officer of the MRC Secretariat, Jeremy Bird, said that floods pose a conundrum to the governments and people of the Mekong States. According to Mr Bird, flooding “is on the one hand a natural event that brings life to the plains, nurturing both wildlife and traditional agricultural cycles. On the other hand, it can also be terribly destructive, wiping out human life and destroying efforts to build a secure and healthy existence”. This duality is what has caused the MRC and it development partners to invest so much money and resources in the new centre.
The building of the Flood Centre was financed by the Government of Japan, while other donors, like the Netherlands, Germany, the United States, Denmark, the Asian Development Bank and the European Commission, fund a wide range of its operations. The Flood Centre will gather information from water monitoring systems all over the Mekong Basin, from Yunnan Province in China all the way down to the Delta in Viet Nam. At the Centre, readings are collated and flooding events predicted. News and warnings are then sent out across the region, helping authorities and communities to prepare for events as early as possible. As the heart of the MRC Flood Management and Mitigation Strategy, the Centre also provides training and technology transfer to technicians of the four MRC Member States.
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