Germany facilitates Mekong basin management with additional funding

By Minh Nga   December 13, 2019 | 06:44 pm GMT+7
Germany facilitates Mekong basin management with additional funding
Farmers prepare a fishing net over a flooded field in Vietnam's Mekong Delta, September 2019. Photo by Pham Huy Trung.
The German government will provide an additional $2.2 million to bolster cross-border water cooperation and environmental monitoring in the Mekong River Basin.

A signing ceremony for the funding was held in the Lao capital of Vientiane Friday, its beneficiary, the Mekong River Commission (MRC) said.

This extra funding has brought the German contribution to the MRC to 6.45 million euros ($7.2 million) for the current strategic plan 2016-2020 and the initial part of the new plan 2021-2025.

The funding will enable the MRC to further foster dialogue and cooperation on trans-boundary water resource planning and management among the four lower Mekong countries - Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Disbursed in 2019-2021, the grant will also be used to increase monitoring of the environmental impacts of mainstream Mekong dams built on Lao territory, the Xayaburi and Don Sahong, and identify measures to mitigate them. 

"The German support comes at a critical time when the Mekong River is facing difficult trade-offs between increased development in the energy, transport and agriculture sectors and impacts on the environment and local livelihoods," said An Pich Hatda, MRC Secretariat’s Chief Executive Officer.

According to the latest MRC’s flow monitoring, the 2019 drought has brought Mekong water levels to their lowest points in living memory, or at least the last 60 years. Since June, most parts of the basin have been experiencing an exceptionally low regional flow.

This low flow, slow drop in the river sediments, and presence of algae on the sand and bedrock river bottom are among the contributing factors that have changed some parts of the Mekong River from its typical brownish color to a blue-green hue.

The sections in Thailand's northeastern province of Nakhon Phanom and Laos' south-central town of Thakhek are now aquamarine, and the MRC said this could also be true of other parts of the river where low flows occur.

It also warned that the blue-green hue can bring possible risks including changes in river productivity and reduced productivity of aquatic biodiversity.

"These emerging issues require meticulous and speedy monitoring and reporting for a proper basin management," Hatda said.

Germany has funded the MRC since 1995, providing close to 50 million euros in both technical and financial support. During this period, the German support has enabled the MRC to implement various strategic activities, including institutional reforms, sustainable hydropower development, integrated water resources management and flood mitigation.

"At a time when the Mekong is increasingly under pressure from impacts of water management projects for irrigation, hydropower and water supply, the work of the MRC in monitoring and managing the basin changes becomes ever more critical," said Jens Lütkenher, German Ambassador to Laos.

The Mekong River flows through China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam.

The Stimson Center ASEAN Infrastructure Database released in June said 102 dams have been built on the Mekong River, including 11 in China and 64 in Laos, also invested by China. Another 64 dams are under construction.

Those dams hold back water, sediments and fish that are supposed to move downstream during the annual flooding season.

The Mekong River Commission has estimated that the volume of sediments reaching the delta will drop from 143 million tons a year in 2007 to 47 million tons in 2020 and just five million tons in 2040, with all the dams going up.

 
 
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