Statement by H.E. Mr. Noulinh Sinbandith - The 18th Meeting of the MRC Council, Joint Meeting with the MRC Donor Consultative Group

Siem Reap, Cambodia, 09 Dec 2011

H.E. Mr. Noulinh Sinbandith, Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, Chairman of Lao National Mekong Committee, Member of the MRC Council for Lao PDR

His Excellency Mr. Lim Kean Hor
Minister of Water Resources and Meteorology
Chairman of Cambodia National Mekong Committee
Chairman of the MRC Council for 2011/2012 

His Excellency Mr. PreechaRengsomboonsuk
Minister of Natural Resources and Environment
Chairman of Thai National Mekong Committee
Member of the MRC Council for the Kingdom of Thailand

His Excellency Dr. Nguyen Thai Lai
Vice Minister of Natural Resources and Environment
Vice Chairman of Viet Nam National Mekong Committee
Alternative Member of the MRC Council for Viet Nam

His Excellency H.E Sin Niny
Permanent Vice-Chairman of Cambodia National Mekong Committee
Alternate Member of the MRC Council for Cambodia

Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Distinguished Representatives of Observers and Development Partners of MRC,

It is indeed my great honor and pleasureto represent the Lao National Mekong Committeeparticipating in this meaningful Eighteenth Meeting of the MRC Council and the Joint Meeting with the Sixteenth MRC Donor Consultative Group in Siem Reap, the charming, cultural and historical City.

I would like to take this opportunity to firstly express our deep gratitudeto the Royal Government of Cambodia and toH.E. Mr. Lim Kean Hor for the warm hospitality being extended, and the excellent arrangements made for the Meeting; secondly to sincerely thank HE. Dr. Pham Khoi Nguyen, Chairman of the MRC Council for years 2010-2011, for his valuable contribution in supervising the council duties for over a year; thirdly to congratulate H.E. Mr. Lim Kean Hor for his Chairmanship of the MRC Council for 2011-2012; and lastly to convey our sincere appreciation to all of our development partners for their strong and continued support to the realization of our MRC activities.

I would also like to warmly welcome Mr. Hans JoakimGuttman, our new MRCS Chief Executive Officer, to this 18th MRC Council Meeting, and wish him to effectively manage and administer the MRC Secretariat inassisting the MRC to successfully attain its noble goals.

This year’s meeting is of particular importance as it comes at a time of great challenges posed by the need to strike the right balance between ensuring strong economic growth coupled with environmentally sustainable development on the one hand, and the conservation of our natural resources and the rich biodiversity in the Mekong River Basin on the other hand. Moreover, the impacts of climate change are increasingly being felt throughout the region, as reflected by the heavy losses in assets and human lives as a result of intensifying cycles of droughts and floods, thus putting at risk the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals in our Lower Mekong River Basin Region. In this connection, may I convey our deepest sympathy to Cambodia, Thailand, Viet Nam and People affected.

In the face of the previous mentioned challenges, we are encouraged by the significant progress that has been made in the implementation of the decisions of the Leaders at the MRC Summit,who I quote “affirmed their strong and continued commitment to cooperate and promote the sustainable development, utilization, conservation and management of the water and related resources of the Mekong River Basin”.

Distinguished Delegates,
Ladies and Gentlemen

The National Growth and Poverty Eradication Strategy and the 7th National Economic and Social Development Plan for 2011 – 2015 strongly emphasize the utilization of our natural resources as a key driver for economic growth and poverty eradication, while remaining committed to effective resource governance as well as the environmental and social safeguards.

The Government of Lao PDR has clear objectives to achieve the MDGs in 2015 and exit from least developed country status by 2020, while, at the same time, contributing to the Mekong Region’s economic development.

Aiming to the use and management of the country natural resources and environment in a sustainable manner, in particular, to ensure the achievement of MDG 7 on environmental sustainability, the Government of Lao PDR had established a unified institution, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MoNRE) in mid of 2011.

The richness of our national water resources provides a good opportunity for Lao PDR to meet its objective of exiting from its LDC status by the year 2020, while at the same time contributing to the Mekong Region’s economic development. We have formulated a National Water Resources Policy, Strategy and Action Plan, soon to be adopted by the Government, and are in the process of revising the existing Water and Water Resources Law for submission to the National Assembly.

The recent adoption by the Government of the Decree on River Basin Committee, aiming to achieve effective and efficient water resources management through applying integrated water resources management (IWRM) principles at the basin and sub basin level as well as encouraging participation of all stakeholders through stakeholder dialogue and benefit sharing. Pilot projects supporting river basin committees are being implemented in the Nam Ngum and NamTheun-Nam Kading River Basins in order to demonstrate different approaches for water resources management: top-down and bottom-up, and at least 3 more river basin committees to be established by 2015. The updated water resources law is going to be summited to the national assembly for promulgation by the end of 2013, the national water resources policy and strategy has been revised accordingly to the government guidance and it is in the process of being consulted with all key stakeholders at the national level for further appropriate finalization.

As a country being blessed with extensive water resources, Lao has significant potential to draw vital revenues from this sector and is working to ensure that these investments are carefully considered, particularly those in the Mekong mainstream. Careful social and environmental analysis will need to be undertaken in close consultation with key stakeholders to ensure that hydropower development in Laos is green, socially and environmentally sound and that they do not only benefit local Lao communities but also those in the Mekong riparian countries. Lao PDR has implemented and carefully followed the 1995 Agreement by proceeding in a very deliberated and cooperative manner in accordance with the PNPCA with respect to hydropower development in Lao PDR, including mainstream hydropower projects, specifically the Sayabouly Hydropower Project. We strongly believe that working this way contributes to the noble goals set forth at the first MRC Summit by working together with our member states to better integrate sustainability considerations into the development of the Basin’s hydropower potential.

As part of the Mekong IWRM Programme, we have formulated a comprehensive National IWRM Programme to assist in the building of the needed capacities as well as the establishment of an early warning system, and we are grateful to the MRC and our Development Partners who have assisted us in this endeavour, including ADB, Australia, Finland, France, Germany, Japan, Spain, Switzerland, and the World Bank to mention a few. We are indeed very pleased on our cooperation with Member Countries, namely Cambodia, Thailand, and Viet Nam, as well as on the support of international Development Partners through the framework of MRC programmes.

Let me take this opportunity to express deepgratitude to my other Council members for their active and fruitful support to the progress being made by the MRC. My sincere thanks go to our Dialogue Partners and Observers for their valuable contribution.I would also like to convey sincere appreciation to Development Partners for their generous assistance to the MRC and Lao PDR. My deep thanks is also extended to the MRC Secretariat and its CEO, Mr. Hans JoakimGuttman and staff for their hard work in the support to member countries.

Thank you very much for your kind attention.