Vientiane, Lao PDR, 30 Jul 2009
The Mekong River Commission and the Mississippi River Commission in the United States have announced their intention to cooperate on a wide range of water resources challenges common to both river basins.
The move was formalized at a ceremony in Vientiane yesterday, but follows the recent visit by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to the region to encourage greater cooperation between the US Government, ASEAN and the governments of the Mekong Basin.
The two river-basin management organizations intend to exchange technical cooperation and know-how to determine how best to adapt to climate change as it affects the Mekong river system. They will also work together to promote the sustainability of hydropower development, address water and food security, manage and cope with floods and droughts better, and increase navigation and trade on their inland waterways.
The agreement follows a commitment made by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at last week’s meeting of Mekong Foreign Ministers in Phuket, Thailand, to bolster cooperation in the environmental, health and educational arenas with Lower Mekong Basin countries.
Ms. Clinton led the US delegation to the ASEAN Post-Ministerial Conference and ASEAN Regional Forum and on the sidelines of the meeting, took time-out to meet with the Foreign Ministers of Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand and Viet Nam.
Ms. Clinton said that the US Government welcomed the initiative between the Mekong and Mississippi River Commissions to pursue a partnership.
"The Mekong River Commission and the Mississippi River Commission are very similar in terms of their principles and mandates," said Jeremy Bird, CEO of the Mekong River Commission Secretariat. "Both organizations strive to sustainably manage water resources against challenges related to climate change, extreme floods, hydropower development, increasing demand for water, improving navigation and trade, and involving people in the basin more on decisions that affect their lives. Both organizations are therefore well-placed to benefit each other through a technical exchange and learn how to best manage their respective complex trans-boundary rivers."
"While the Mekong and Mississippi Rivers are experiencing challenges, their respective Commissions also have considerable institutional and professional expertise in dealing with these challenges," said Brig. Gen Michael J Walsh, President of the Mississippi River Commission. "Both organizations will profit from a closer partnership and the sharing of best practices."
The two river commissions are currently exploring a formal agreement, which will identify a plan of action and specific institutional mechanisms for cooperation in their mutual areas of interest.
The Mississippi River Commission
The Mississippi River Commission was established by an Act of Congress on June 28, 1879. Congress charged it with developing plans to improve the condition of the Mississippi River, foster navigation, promote commerce, and prevent destructive floods.
Today the organization, which is headquartered in Vicksburg, Miss., provides water resources engineering direction and policy advice to the Administration, Congress, and the Army in a drainage basin that covers 41 percent of the United States and parts of two Canadian provinces by overseeing the planning and reporting on the improvements on the Mississippi River. The Commission’s mission is to lead sustainable management and development of water related resources for the nation’s benefit and the people’s well-being.
The Mekong River Commission
The Mekong River Commission 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. It deals with all river related sectors including sustaining fisheries, identifying opportunities for agriculture, sustainable hydropower, 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 Mekong River Commission aims to facilitate a broad range of dialogue among governments, the private sector and civil society on these challenges.
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