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

South Korea Divided on Response to North’s Cyber Attack

In past five years, officials in Seoul have accused Pyongyang of hacking into banks, government websites, causing chaos and inflicting millions of dollars in damages More

Video Calm Amid Fear in Daily Life in S. Sudan’s Bentiu

Residents have been trying to regain some sense of normalcy, but planning for the future remains uncertain as fear of attacks looms More

2015 Could Be Watershed for Syria Conflict

Republican control of US Senate in January could lead to more aggressive policy against IS militants in Syria - and against regime of Bashar al-Assad 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.
Jane Monheit Christmas Speciali
X
December 22, 2014 8:15 PM
Chanteuse Jane Monheit sings the holiday classic “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” and explains why it’s her favorite song of the season.
Video

Video Jane Monheit Christmas Special

Chanteuse Jane Monheit sings the holiday classic “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” and explains why it’s her favorite song of the season.
Video

Video Trade Talks Could Heat Up in 2015

With boosting trade a top priority for the Obama administration, 2015 may be the year that an agreement is finally reached on the Trans Pacific Partnership. But the trade deal, which is intended to boost trade between 12 Pacific countries, faces opposition as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Ugandan Doctors Aid Victims of Sudan's Civil War

In Sudan's state of South Kordofan, the number of amputees as result of civil war is in the thousands, but few have access to sufficient medical help. Adam Bailes recently visited the area and says a small team of Ugandan doctors has been providing remote help, producing new prosthetic limbs for those in need.
Video

Video Calm Amid Fear in Daily Life in S. Sudan’s Town of Bentiu

Six months ago, Bentiu was a ghost town. The capital of northern Unity State, near South Sudan’s important oil fields, had changed hands several times in fighting between government forces and rebels. Calm returned in November and since then, residents of Bentiu have been trying to regain some sense of normalcy. Bentiu’s market has reopened there are plans to start school again. But fears of new attacks hang heavy, as Benno Muchler reports from Bentiu.
Video

Video US Business Groups Press for Greater Access to Cuba

President Barack Obama's decision to do all he can to ease restrictions on U.S. trade, travel and financial activities with Cuba has drawn criticism from some conservatives and Republicans. People who bring tourists to the island and farmers who want to sell more food to Cuba, however, think they can do a lot more business with Cuba. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school

All About America

AppleAndroid