Accelerating basin-wide studies to reduce negative impacts and battling natural disaster woes are among key priorities for Mekong nations as the second Mekong River Commission summit concluded in Ho Chi Minh City on Saturday.
Heads of government of Cambodia, Lao, Thailand and Vietnam Saturday reaffirmed their commitment to the Mekong cooperation, to follow up the implementation of the Hua Hin Declaration of 2010, and set priorities for the Mekong River Commission, including the need to expedite studies and research for sound advice and recommendations on development that will increasingly place burdens on Mekong resources.
The Ho Chi Minh City Declaration was adopted by the premiers of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, and the Special Envoy of Thailand.
Among its conclusions, the leaders stated that The MRC Council Study and the Mekong Delta Study will provide a basis for better understanding about potential risks and benefits of development initiatives.
At the end of the 2nd MRC Summit, the national leaders also set other priorities for the Mekong River Commission to take action to address regional opportunities and challenges over the next decade including population growth, increasing demand for water, food and energy and climate change.
The Council Study on Sustainable Management and Development of the Mekong River, including the impacts of mainstream hydropower projects has been initiated by the MRC Council which comprises water and environment ministers at their annual Meeting in December 2011.
The Council Study aims to provide a better picture on potential transboundary impacts due to mainstream developments.
“To address such challenges, national efforts are not enough.
"We need to strengthen regional cooperation, particularly among the riparian countries, both upper and lower, through multilateral and sub-regional mechanisms such as the MRC,” said Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, whose country hosted the 2nd MRC Summit.
“We note that the development of water resources of the Mekong River Basin has contributed largely to the socio-economic development of the region, such as for navigation, energy and food production, but also has negative environmental and social impacts in the Basin that need to be fully and effectively addressed,” the leaders said in the Ho Chi Minh City Declaration they adopted at the 2nd MRC Summit.
The MRC will focus on avoiding, reducing and mitigating risks to river ecology, food security, livelihoods and water quality posed by intensive agriculture, aquaculture and irrigation as well as hydropower, navigation and other development activities, the Declaration says.
The document acknowledges the progress made since the 1st Summit in Hua Hin in 2010 and reiterates the need for the Member Countries to work through the mechanisms of the MRC to manage the shared waters.
“The MRC should be measured in how it fosters international cooperation and in the end how the outcomes of the cooperation is producing improvements in society, the environment and economic development,” said Hans Guttman, Chief Executive Officer of the Mekong River Commission Secretariat.
The leaders also prioritized further efforts to reduce the risks of floods and droughts and the effects of sea level rise in the Mekong Basin.
In battling the effects of natural disaster, leaders stressed that the Mekong Countries recognize that climate change will continue to alter the hydrological regime of the basin and consequently effect livelihoods and economies in the region.
The MRC will look ahead and set a clear direction, identifying new opportunities and addressing challenges to come up with the next strategic plan and to engage more meaningfully not only with development partners but also all other stakeholders, especially civil society.
The heads of government reaffirmed their political commitment to implement the 1995 Mekong Agreement and commit to enhance and strengthen the MRC’s relationships and cooperation with Dialogue Partners, China and Myanmar and Development Partners.