Germany, EU continue to fund greater Mekong water co-operation

By Viet Anh   November 29, 2018 | 05:38 pm PT
Germany, EU continue to fund greater Mekong water co-operation
A man waits by his fishing net on the Mekong River in Vietnam's Can Tho City. Photo by Shutterstock/pcruciatti
Germany and the European Union have separately pledged new financial assistance for Mekong riparian countries to boost collaboration.

The Mekong River Commission (MRC), the German government and the European Union (EU) have signed agreements worth 8.92 million Euro ($10 million) to enhance Mekong cross-border water cooperation.

The agreement was signed Wednesday on the sidelines of the 25th Meeting of the MRC Council in Ha Long in northern Vietnam.

The German support, worth 4 million euro ($4.6 million), aims to increase dialogue and cooperation on transboundary water resource planning and management among the lower Mekong countries, including Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam, who are members of the MRC.

Spanning over a three-year period from 2019 to 2021, much of the funding will go to support two joint transboundary projects between Cambodia and Laos, and Cambodia and Thailand.

The projects seek to better understand and manage the Mekong basin resources and address flood and drought issues.

A portion of the grant will also go to the MRC’s financial mechanism known as the "basket fund" to implement overall activities under the strategic plan 2016-2020. The mechanism allows the MRC to use funds for any of its prioritized activities that benefit more than 65 million people in the basin.

With the EU, the new financial agreement, worth 4.92 million euro ($5.55 million), will run in 2019 and 2020 to support the implementation of the MRC strategic plan 2016-2020.

The primary aim of the support is to promote and coordinate sustainable development and management of the Mekong water and related resources in the four member countries.

"The new funding from both Germany and the EU will enable the MRC to ensure effective basin-wide water resources management and the inclusiveness of dialogue at the national and regional levels with a stronger representation of all relevant stakeholders," said MRC Secretariat CEO Pham Tuan Phan.

The commission focuses its work on four key result areas such as strengthening regional cooperation, improving monitoring and communication of conditions in the basin, enhancing national plans and projects; and turning the MRC into a leaner, more efficient river basin organization.

The EU has funded the MRC to the tune of more than 11 million euro or approximately $12.7 million since 2003 on many important areas of work, including flood mitigation, climate change, institutional reforms and integrated water resources management.

Germany has also financed the MRC since 2003, providing some 31 million euro or $36 million in funding.

Over 15 years, the German support has made it possible for the MRC to implement various strategic activities, including institutional reforms, sustainable hydropower development, integrated water resources management, flood mitigation, and climate change.

At the Wednesday meeting, ministerial delegates from MRC reaffirmed the organization’s reform commitment and regional relevance.

It named An Pich Hatda of Cambodia as the next CEO. The incoming CEO, currently serving as MRC Secretariat’s Director of Planning Division, is expected to take up his office in late January 2019 for a three-year tenure.

This is the second time the MRC has appointed a CEO from one of the four member countries, following the first appointment of the current CEO, Pham Tuan Phan of Viet Nam.

The meeting also approved the annual work plan for 2019, with a budget of about $15.8 million. The plan prioritizes commencement of updating the basin development strategy and its implication for the new strategic plan for 2021-2025. It also focuses on finalizing and publishing the Mekong state of the basin report 2018, which provides information on the status and trends of water and related resources in the Mekong basin.

The two-day meeting ending Thursday also agreed to continue discussion and consensus-building in other key areas including update of the sustainable hydropower development strategy, the preliminary design guidance for mainstream dams, and transboundary environment impact assessment guidelines.

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