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)
TEXT SIZE - +
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

Algerians Vote in Presidential Election

There were few media reports of protests and clashes around the country, but so far no significant violence More

Sharks More Evolved than Previously Thought

The discovery could “profoundly affect our understanding of evolutionary history” More

Pakistan Military Asked to Protect Polio Workers

Request comes as authorities say a Taliban ban on vaccinations in 2012 and deadly attacks on anti-polio teams have prevented thousands of children from getting inoculated 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.
Google Buys Drone Companyi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
George Putic
April 15, 2014
In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ray Bonneville Sings the Blues and More on New CD

Singer/songwriter Ray Bonneville has released a new CD called “Easy Gone” with music that reflects his musical and personal journey from French-speaking Canada to his current home in Austin,Texas. The eclectic artist’s fan base extends from Texas to various parts of North America and Europe. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin.
Video

Video Millions Labor in Pakistan's Informal Economy

The World Bank says that in Pakistan, roughly 70 percent work in the so-called informal sector, a part of the economy that is unregulated and untaxed. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Islamabad on how the informal sector impact's the Pakistani economy.
Video

Video Passover Celebrates Liberation from Bondage

Jewish people around the world are celebrating Passover, a commemoration of their liberation from slavery in Egypt more than 3,300 years ago. According to scripture, God helped the Jews, led by Moses, escape bondage in Egypt and cross the Red Sea into the desert. Zlatica Hoke reports that the story of the Jewish Exodus resonates with other people trying to escape slave-like conditions.
Video

Video Police Pursue Hate Crime Charges Against Kansas Shooting Suspect

Prosecutors are sifting through the evidence in the wake of Sunday’s shootings in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri that left three people dead. A suspect in the shootings taken into custody is a white supremacist. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, he was well-known to law enforcement agencies and human rights groups alike.
Video

Video In Eastern Ukraine, Pro-unity Activists Emerge from Shadows

Amid the pro-Russian uprisings in eastern Ukraine, there is a large body of activists who support Ukrainian unity and reject Russian intervention. Their activities have remained largely underground, but they are preparing to take on their pro-Moscow opponents, as Henry Ridgwell reports from the eastern city of Donetsk.
Video

Video Basket Maker’s Skills Have World Reach

A prestigious craft show in the U.S. capital offers one-of-a-kind creations by more than 120 artists working in a variety of media. As VOA’s Julie Taboh reports from Washington, one artist lucky enough to be selected says sharing her skills with women overseas is just as significant.
Video

Video UN Report Urges Speedier Action to Avoid Climate Disaster

A new United Nations report says the world must switch from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources to control the effects of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the report (Sunday) following a meeting of scientists and government representatives in Berlin. The comprehensive review follows two recent IPCC reports that detail the certainty of climate change, its impacts and in this most recent report what to do about it. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble has the details.
AppleAndroid