Opening Statement by H.E. Mr. Lim Kean Hor - The 18th Meeting of the MRC Council, Joint Meeting with the MRC Donor Consultative Group

Siem Reap, Cambodia, 08 Dec 2011

H.E. Mr. Lim Kean Hor, Minister of Water Resources and Meteorology of Cambodia, Chairperson of the Cambodia National Mekong Committee, Member of the MRC Council for the Kingdom of Cambodia, Chairperson of the MRC Council for 2011/2012

Excellency Mr. Sin Niny
Permanent Vice-Chairman of the Cambodia National Mekong Committee
Alternate Member of the MRC Council for the Kingdom of Cambodia
Head of the Delegation of Cambodia 

Excellency Mr. Noulinh Sinbandhit
Minister of Natural Resources and Environment of Lao PDR
Chairperson of the Lao National Mekong Committee
Member of the MRC Council for Lao PDR 

Excellency Mr. Preecha Rengsomboonsuk
Minister of Natural Resources and Environment of Thailand
Chairperson of the Thai National Mekong Committee
Member of the MRC Council for the Kingdom of Thailand 

Excellency Mr. Nguyen Minh Quang
Minister of Natural Resources and Environment of Viet Nam
Chairperson of the Viet Nam National Mekong Committee
Member of the MRC Council for the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam

Distinguished Delegates,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is my honour to welcome you all to the 18th MRC Council Meeting today. Once a year, this gathering is a platform for the MRC Council Members to discuss emerging issues as well as the MRC’s progress and future plans. Without a doubt, this year saw significant developments that will require our close attention during the next two days.

It is also my pleasure to welcome you here to Siem Reap City. You may know that water resource management is a topic that has been incorporated into the Khmer people’s everyday life since ancient times. Centuries ago, the Khmer empire was experimenting with canals and irrigation and if you look closely, you will even find scenes of the river’s abundant resources carved into temple walls. I hope that while you are here that you are able to explore some of the area’s historical sites and enjoy all that this ancient city has to offer. 

Before I begin, on behalf of the Cambodia National Mekong Committee, and as the Chairperson of the MRC Council for 2011/2012, I would like to thank His Excellency Mr. Nguyen Minh Quang for his chairmanship over the past year.

As mentioned by His Excellency Mr. Nguyen Minh Quang, the last Council Meeting paved the way to milestone achievements for our four Member Countries. These include the adoption of the Procedures for Water Quality and equally noteworthy was the approval of the Integrated Water Resources Management-based Basin Development Strategy and the Strategic Plan 2011-2015. They will prove to be efficient tools for the Member Countries to improve water quality, to take greater ownership of the MRC and to apply more trans-boundary, integrated and cross-section approaches to the development and management of water and related resources of the Mekong River Basin. Over the course of our Meeting tomorrow, we will learn the extent to which these strategies have been implemented.

Later on today, we will hear progress on the management and financial matters of the MRC. After that our Meeting will focus on the consideration of the prior consultation process for the proposed Xayaburi Hydropower project. This is definitely one of the most significant considerations for us as a regional grouping. Since the notification of the first proposed hydropower development scheme on the Mekong mainstream in September last year, the Prior Consultation process required under the MRC’s Procedures for Notification, Prior Consultation and Agreement has received intense public interest. Our Meeting today embodies the four Member Countries’ dedication to public interest by coming together to talk about how to take this matter forward.

Throughout the six-month consultation, the four Member Countries demonstrated untiring dedication discussing and evaluating the potential impacts of the proposed use of the Mekong mainstream. National public forums were held to gauge views and perspectives from relevant stakeholders. Technical documents of the projects were reviewed by experts of the MRC Secretariat as well as external specialists. Immediately following this, the Prior Consultation Project Review Report was produced and used as technical background information for discussion among the Member Countries.

As you know, before arriving at this crucial stage of decision-making, the matter was tabled for discussion at the Joint Committee’s Special Session in April. At that Session, the Joint Committee could not reach a unanimous decision and thus referred this matter for the consideration of the Council. Today, we will discuss the Prior Consultation process for the project and decide on how to move forward together. 

Distinguished Delegates,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Even though the consultation of the first proposed use of water on the Mekong mainstream has proved to be a challenging one, it has struck a chord that demonstrates why regional cooperation is crucial. It reminds us why a river basin organisation like the MRC is so important.

No matter what conclusion we reach today, our gathering and discussion on this topic reaffirms the political will of the Member Countries to continue to work together in order to bring about a constructive dialogue under the spirit of the Mekong Agreement. 

Before we begin our day, I would like to express my profound appreciation for your presence and participation here. I wish for this Meeting to be a great success. 

And without further spending time, I now declare the 18th MRC Council Meeting open.

Thank you for your attention.