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MRC approves draft Mekong river development strategy

Pech Sotheary / Khmer Times Share:
A ferry is seen transporting sand along the confluence of the Mekong, Tonle Sap and Bassac Rivers in Phnom Penh, commonly called Chaktomuk. MRC

The Mekong River Commission has approved a draft Mekong basin development strategy to respond to critical environmental and social pressures from ongoing and planned developments and climate change in the Mekong River Basin.

An Pich Hatda, MRC Secretariat chief executive officer, said yesterday that over the last decade, the Mekong River has come under increasing threat from climate change, water resources development projects such as hydropower dams, irrigation projects, sand mining and population increases.

He noted these challenges have been identified in the MRC’s State of the Basin Report 2018 and the Council Study.

Mr  Pich Hatda said all stakeholders, including Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam have called for a more proactive regional approach to basin planning and management to optimise economic benefits while continuing to protect the Mekong’s rich natural resources and people’s livelihoods.

In response to this call, he said the MRC Joint Committee held a special meeting early this month to endorse, ad-referendum, a 10-year Basin Development Strategy that will pave the way for a final consideration and approval by the MRC  Council comprising the four  relevant ministers from member countries before the MRC and all relevant parties can begin timely implementation next year.

“Our new strategy takes a more focused whole-of-basin approach to guide everyone involved in Mekong water-related issues towards achieving improvements in the environmental, social and economic state of the Mekong River Basin, with benefits to all basin countries and peoples,” Mr Hatda said.

In a statement on Friday, the MRC said the new basin development strategy identifies key issues faced by basin countries in developing and managing the water and related resources and sets out the way in which the countries agree to jointly address these issues in order to promote the sustainable development of the basin, in-line with the aims and intent of the 1995 Mekong Agreement.

MRC noted that the BDS sets five strategic priorities to respond to demanding challenges facing the basin.

These include maintaining the ecological function of the Mekong River Basin, enabling inclusive access and utilisation of the basin’s water and related resources, improving optimal and sustainable development of water and related sectors, strengthening resilience against disasters and boosting cooperation among all basin countries and stakeholders.

“Key outputs to be delivered in the next ten years by all relevant parties in cooperation are diverse but all aim to protect the river and livelihoods, as developments accelerate and climate change intensifies,” the statement said.

It said these deliverables will include maintenance of acceptable flows and water quality that cover plastic waste management, putting in place a basin-wide sediment management plan and ensuring there are effective fish passes. They will be extended to include improved flood and drought forecasting and communication with the public and cooperation and coordination mechanisms for data and information sharing on water infrastructure and related water emergencies.

So Sophort, secretary general of Cambodia National Mekong Committee, could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Mak Bunthoeurn, Rivers coalition in Cambodia Coordinator of the NGO Forum on Cambodia, said yesterday that through the draft Mekong basin development strategy, organisations that work on issues related to water governance in Cambodia have also agreed to submit some requests to the MRC for review and consideration to ensure sustainable management of the Mekong River Basin.

“The BDS priorities should highlight the importance of the maintenance of high water-flow in the wet season for the migration of fish to their feeding and spawning ground,” he said.

Mr Bunthoeurn said the MRC should further expand its cooperation with China on providing transparent information on water flows so that Lower Mekong countries can benefit from upstream development, explore and promote renewable energy such as solar and wind that have the potential to reduce pressure and conserve biodiversity in the Mekong River.

He also requested improved information disclosure, including details of development projects, to better facilitate stakeholder participation in consultations and the provision of  more opportunities for representatives of civil society organistions and communities to participate in consultations on river basin development projects.

 

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