Mekong River Commission Summit Tries to Solve Problems

Mekong, community, environment, sustainability

The Mekong River in Laos seen from the air.

The Mekong River Commission (MRC) is organising the 3rd MRC Summit in Siem Reap, Cambodia on April 4 and 5, hoping to resolve some of the issues faced by the River.

This capstone event brings together the four Prime Ministers of Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand, and Viet Nam, and high-level representatives from China and Myanmar, the MRC’s dialogue partners. “This will be the third time the leaders of the Mekong come together to reaffirm their highest commitment to the MRC’s mandate and work for an economically prosperous, socially just, and environmentally sound Mekong River Basin,” said MRC CEO Mr. Pham Tuan Phan.

The summit takes place on 4-5 April and is preceded by a two-day international conference. The event’s tagline, ‘One Mekong, One Spirit’, echoes one of its foremost objectives, namely to strengthen joint efforts and partnerships for sustainable management and development of water and related resources in the Mekong River Basin. The MRC looks to strengthen ties both between the MRC member countries as well as partnerships with private partners.

“Considering the growing pressures on the basin—population increases, infrastructure development, and climate impacts—it is of utmost importance that we use this event as an opportunity to define a clear set of priorities. We need to work together, across borders and sectors, to ensure equitable sharing of water resources and related benefits,” added CEO Pham.

In addition, the event’s objectives include reiterating the MRC’s push to play an increasingly active role in supporting its member countries to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly, but not solely, Goal 6 on sustainable management of water. Many stakeholders in the region ass well as local governments feel concerned about the impact of mainstream hydropower projects, as well as ways to mitigate climate change. In recent years, the Mekong has seen regular flooding followed by prolonged period of drought.

The MRC expects the summit to help further solidify its role as the premier knowledge hub and water diplomacy platform in the river basin. The commission looks cross all sectors to meet multiple objectives, including sustaining fisheries, fostering sustainable hydropower, identifying opportunities for irrigated agriculture, maintaining the freedom of navigation, improving flood and drought management, and preserving important ecosystems.

Its recent achievements include strengthened engagement, communication and outreach efforts; a widely appreciated six-month prior consultation process for the Pak Beng hydropower project; the adoption of basin-wide strategies and actions plans on fisheries, climate change and gender; and finalisation of guidelines on environmental impact mitigation for hydropower and for transboundary environmental impact assessments.

The 3rd MRC Summit will culminate with the issuing of the Siem Reap Declaration, which will lay out high level priorities for the coming four years and reiterate the member countries’ shared responsibility for the future health and wealth of the Mekong River Basin.