News / Asia

Asian Ministers Tackle Mekong River Development

People fish on wooden boats on the Mekong River in Phnom Penh, Aug. 19, 2010. (file photo)
People fish on wooden boats on the Mekong River in Phnom Penh, Aug. 19, 2010. (file photo)
Robert Carmichael

Environment ministers from six Asian nations are meeting in Phnom Penh to finalize how they will work together to balance economic development and environmental protection in a region that includes one of the world’s longest and most biodiverse rivers in the world.

In 2005, the nations that share the 4,800 kilometer Mekong River set up the first five-year plan to unify efforts for balance environmental protection with development and poverty reduction.

That $30-million program, with the unwieldy name of the Core Environmental Program and Biodiversity Conservation Corridors Initiative, expires in December.  The six countries in the Greater Mekong Subregion group are China, Burma, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, and their environment ministers have endorsed, in principle, extending the program until 2016.  

Formal approval of the plan is expected in December.

Senior natural resources specialist Sanath Ranawana, with the Asian Development Bank, which administers the program, explains why such talks are critical for tens of millions of people.

“The GMS, the Greater Mekong Sub-region, is an area that is growing very rapidly. And the potential for growth here is enormous; countries like China, neighboring countries such as Indonesia or India, which create a huge demand for the resources and the products from this region. And so this program is quite important and crucial for balancing what this region might do in the future, development in the future, with how it can manage its resources in a sustainable way,” Ranawana says.

The Mekong River and its tributaries are one of the richest freshwater fisheries in the world, but environmentalists warn it is increasingly under threat from pollution and new hydropower dams.


Activists dance in front of the Chinese embassy in Bangkok after delivering a letter demanding its government to stop building dams on upper Mekong river
Mar. 4 2010 (Reuters).

Environmentalists fear dams could cause significant damage to migratory fish stocks, as well as the flow of sediment that builds up and protects the Mekong Delta region in southeastern Vietnam.

The most controversial proposal is the $3.8-billion Xayaburi dam in Laos, but following pressure from downriver countries Cambodia and Vietnam, Laos officials recently said they are suspending construction.

The Mekong’s importance to Cambodia was highlighted by Prime Minister Hun Sen who told Thursday’s gathering that managing the river’s water resources is “a matter of life and death” for the people who rely on it.  

Laos also sees the river as a key way to boost its impoverished economy by generating electricity from hydropower dams in this energy-hungry region.

The ADB’s Sanath Ranawana says linking energy programs with the environment forms a central plank of the second stage of the program.  It will also link the environment to investment decisions in other vital areas such as agriculture, tourism and transport.

“We have made the case, and the countries recognize very well, that environment is an integral aspect that they need to take care of," he says. "The ecosystem services that are generated from the conservation landscapes are what underpin the whole economic program, the economic development.  So agriculture, hydropower, all of the sectors that are important for economic development are based on having valuable ecosystem services.”

In Bali last week U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told the annual Association of South-East Asian Nations Regional Forum that Washington is working with the ADB and the European Union to improve infrastructure and the environment in the Lower Mekong.

She also called for a pause in all new dam construction until fully assessing their environmental effects.

You May Like

Sydney Hostage-taker Failed to Manipulate Social Media

Gunman forced captives to use personal Facebook, YouTube accounts to issue his demands; online community helped flag messages, urged others not to share them More

UN Seeks $8.4 Billion to Help War-Hit Syrians

Effort aimed at helping Syrians displaced within their own country and those who've fled to neighboring ones More

Who Are the Pakistani Taliban?

It's an umbrella group of militant organizations whose objective is enforcement of Sharia in Pakistan 'whether through peace or war' More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Putin: Russian Economy to Rebound in 2 Yearsi
X
December 18, 2014 5:13 PM
Russian President Vladimir Putin held his annual end-of-the-year news conference Thursday, tackling questions on the Russian economy, the crisis in Ukraine and Russian relations with the west. VOA's Jeff Custer reports.
Video

Video Putin: Russian Economy to Rebound in 2 Years

Russian President Vladimir Putin held his annual end-of-the-year news conference Thursday, tackling questions on the Russian economy, the crisis in Ukraine and Russian relations with the west. VOA's Jeff Custer reports.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?

The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video Turkey's Authoritarianism Dismays Western Allies

The Turkish government has been defiant in the face of criticism at home and abroad for its raids targeting opposition media. The European Union on Monday expressed dismay after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at Brussels for criticizing his government's action. Turkey's bid to be considered for EU membership has been on hold while critics accuse the NATO ally of increasingly authoritarian rule. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid