​Mekong countries to invest over $60 mln to improve state of river

By Viet Anh   April 5, 2021 | 09:00 pm PT
​Mekong countries to invest over $60 mln to improve state of river
A view of the Mekong River bordering Thailand and Laos from the Thai side in Nong Khai in 2019. Photo by Reuters.
The Mekong River Commission has unveiled the financial component of a new strategy to address emerging challenges and improve the overall state of the river basin.

Under the new five-year strategic plan, it seeks to invest over $60 million, of which about 40 percent would come from member countries, according to a press release it issued Monday.

Its 10-year Basin Development Strategy (BDS) strategy will focus on five priority areas: improved ecological functions of the Mekong River for a healthy environment and productive communities, improved access to and use of water and related resources for community well-being, sustainable development for inclusive economic growth, resilience against climate and disaster risks, and enhanced regional cooperation from a whole-of-basin perspective.

The BDS is based on recent assessments of the impacts caused by water and related resources developments and infrastructure, including dams that have changed flow regimes, affecting sediment transport and accelerating bank erosion.

These have in turn led to a decline in natural fish populations, the degradation of environmental assets and floodplains, and the reduction in the replenishment of the Mekong Delta.

Climate change has further added to the severity of the impacts, bringing more uncertainties and risks, including frequent droughts and floods.

The strategy also recommends measures that all stakeholders can implement to achieve their strategic priorities.

A new key direction for the MRC’s work will be to proactively assess and identify new storage options and new flow and environmental limits, and recommend basin-wide joint investment projects that will enable flood management, drought relief, energy security, and environmental protection.

Work will also be carried out to ensure that new power generation plans consider the full range of viable generation sources, including the integration of water-energy options and the complementary use of wind and solar power. This will increase sustainability while addressing potential climate risks.

The MRC will also explore how water infrastructure projects throughout the basin could be coordinated to enhance their benefits and limit their adverse environmental impacts on the Mekong’s mainstream.

"The strategy is aligned with the Mekong governments’ priorities and needs for achieving a stronger and more resilient Mekong River Basin through proactive planning and coordinated management, and thus ensures a balance between economic development and environmental protection," Dr An Pich Hatda, MRC secretariat chief executive officer, speaking at the official launch of the BDS and SP Monday, said.

The launch event also commemorated Mekong Day, when member countries signed the Mekong Agreement on April 5, 1995.

The Mekong River flows 4,880 km from its origins in Tibet, 2,130 km of it in China, where it is called Lancang. It then flows south through Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam before reaching the sea.

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