Mekong co-operation vital: PM Dung

VietNamNet Bridge – Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung has called for strengthening regional co-operation for sustainable development along the Mekong River, saying severe negative impacts seen in riparian nations warrant urgent action.

Mekong River, sustainable development, environmental protection

The Ba Nga floating market in Hau Giang Province. Riparian countries have reaffirmed the importance of sustainable use and management of water and other resources in the Mekong River Basin. 

At the Second Mekong River Commission Summit held in HCM City on Saturday, he spelled out the challenges that Viet Nam and other Mekong riparian countries face.

"Never before has the Mekong River Basin been confronted with so many challenges.

"There has been a mounting pressure on water and related resources and on the ecosystem of the Mekong River Basin as a result of increasing demand for natural resources for socio-economic activities, including energy and food."

The annual average flow at Chieng Sen, the gateway to the Lower Mekong Basin, has reduced by 10 per cent in the last 30 years, he said. The river suffers one of the five worst flow reductions in any of the world's large rivers.

In Vientiane, Laos, it has dried out to the point that people can walk across it in the dry season, while in Thailand, the once calm Chao Phraya River caused massive floods for months in 2011, he said.

In Viet Nam's Mekong Delta, saltwater intrusion occurred for the first time in Tan Chau and Chau Doc in An Giang Province, and such impacts have become ever more severe and urgent in the face of the adverse impacts of climate change hitting riparian countries, he said.

In the worst case climate scenario, the sea level will rise by one metre in Viet Nam in the next 100 years, submerging 40 percent of the Mekong Delta and directly affecting 10 per cent of the country's population, he said.

Regional food security is also at stake.

In Viet Nam, the delta, an area of over 40,, is home to nearly 20 million people.

The region contributes some 27 per cent of GDP, 90 per cent of rice exports, and 60 per cent of seafood exports.

It finds itself impacted by climate change with Mekong mainstream projects and the livelihoods of millions of local inhabitants being significantly affected.

Dung praised the positive outcomes of implementing the 2010 Hua Hin Declaration, the 2011-15 Strategic Plan of the MRC, and the Basin Development Strategy.

He called on all the member countries to redouble their efforts to capitalise on co-operation opportunities and rise above these challenges.

"To address such challenges, national efforts are not enough.

"We need to strengthen regional co-operation through multilateral and sub-regional mechanisms such as the MRC."

Attending the summit were the prime ministers of Cambodia and Laos, Permanent Secretary of Thailand's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and other international delegates.

Lessons learned

Lao Prime Minister Thongsing Thammavong said that the Mekong River Basin, home to more than 60 million people, brings various benefits and contributes to the socio-economic development of riparian countries.

"In general, I have observed that development activities in the Mekong River Basin have been properly managed without any tension and confrontation.

"Indeed, these are lessons learned that we should continue to cherish to make the Mekong a river of peace, friendship, and cooperation."

He called for finding the most appropriate ways and means to properly manage and optimise the benefits gained from development and minimise the environmental impacts.

"Addressing the impacts of climate change and environmental challenges does not depend merely on whether we should suspend or minimise development activities."

He seconded Dung's call to enhance co-operation in the management, utilisation, and development of the Mekong basin to make it economically prosperous, socially just, and environmentally sound.

Consult, Laos urged

Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Nguyen Minh Quang, referring to Laos' Xayaburi dam, which is 30 per cent complete, and the proposed Don Sahong Dam, told local and international journalists at a press conference held after the summit that Laos needs to consult with other Mekong River Commission member countries.

The Don Sahong project — which will break ground at the end of this year — should be built only after the result of a study by his government on the impacts of mainstream hydropower development on Viet Nam's Mekong Delta is completed at the end of next year, he said.

"The Vietnamese and Cambodian prime ministers have called on Lao PDR to consider the opinions of Mekong River Commission member countries."

Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Ha Kim Ngoc said: "Viet Nam wants Lao PDR to develop, but it should follow the commission's regulations.

"We feel that Lao PDR listened to the opinions and noted the concerns of Viet Nam and Cambodia and promised to consider them very carefully."

Also at the press conference, PM Dung said the member countries' approval of the Ho Chi Minh City Declaration confirmed their solidarity and commitment at the highest political.

He was confident that through exchanges and dialogue in the spirit of co-operation, the challenges related to water resources, energy, and food security while securing the legitimate interests of the people in the Mekong Basin in terms of economic development, social security, and environmental protection would be addressed.

HCM City Declaration

The Second Mekong River Commission Summit concluded on Saturday with a Ho Chi Minh City Declaration that confirms the solidarity between member nations.

The document outlines the regional leaders' commitment to furthering cross-border co-operation and focuses on expediting the commission's procedures, revising and updating strategic plans, as well as researching the impact of climate change.

It reaffirms the vital importance of sustainable use and management of water and other resources in the Mekong River Basin as well as political commitment to implementing the 1995 Mekong Agreement.

The document carries a pledge by the heads of government of member nations to continue co-operating and promoting sustainable development of the Mekong Basin and to undertake risk mitigating measures for preserving the river's ecological system.

Source: VNS

Mekong River, sustainable development, environmental protection