News / Asia

US Assistance Aims at Preventing Cross-Border Conflict in Mekong Region

Mekong River and tributaries sustain tens of millions of people in Southeast Asia, but river is also site of several controversial new hydropower projects.

A Cambodian man walks on a bridge from his fishing wooden boat at Mekong river bank near Phnom Penh, Cambodia, July 27, 2011
A Cambodian man walks on a bridge from his fishing wooden boat at Mekong river bank near Phnom Penh, Cambodia, July 27, 2011
TEXT SIZE - +
Brian Padden

Although the dispute about conflicting claims in the South China Sea took center stage at the recent ASEAN security forum, U.S. officials also focused on addressing another potential conflict relating to Asia’s growing energy needs. The Mekong River and its tributaries sustain tens of millions of people in Southeast Asia, but the river is also the site of several controversial new hydropower projects. 

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton came to the recent security forum of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Bali to say the United States intends to remain engaged in the political and economic development of the region. As part of that effort, she talked about how Washington is fostering responsible development through a $221 million U.S. assistance program in the Lower Mekong River Basin.

The money will used to fund education, environment, health and infrastructure programs in underdeveloped areas in Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam.

The U.S. Ambassador to ASEAN David Carden says the United States is concerned about the impact of several large hydropower projects that some environmental groups have warned could seriously affect key waterways in the region.

“The dams that are being proposed and some that have already been built have not at this juncture been fully vetted as to what their scientific impact is," he said. "And it is not only this region but indeed in the interest of the world for food security purposes, for environmental purposes, for peace and security purpose, for the development of the Lower Mekong to happen intelligently and consistent with the best science that can be brought to bear on it.”

More than 60 million people live in the Lower Mekong Basin, an area of more than 600,000 square kilometers. It is the world's largest inland fishery. Rice farmers also depend on water and sediment from the river to irrigate and fertilize their crops.

But there is growing concern that the construction of hydroelectric dams in China and plans for more dams in Laos and Cambodia could cause significant environmental and economic damage in lower Mekong countries like Vietnam.

Ambassador Carden says the U.S. assistance is broadly aimed at providing aid to help maintain peace and security in a region where there is a potential for cross border conflict.

“I think that the simple truth is, whatever any motivations anybody wants to attribute to these efforts, I think it is clearly the case that the world, not just the region, the world recognizes the need for all of us to work together to address these border-less problems,” said Carden.

But Milton Osborne, Southeast Asia analyst with Australia's Lowy Institute for International Policy says the U.S. engagement in Asia is motivated in large part by concern about China's growing influence.

“The continuing rise of China in economic terms is clearly a concern for the United States and this is one, the Mekong initiative is one of several ways the United States is making clear that it is continuing to have a broad interest in this part of the world,” said Osborne.

Osborne says the aid money does not give U.S. officials access to negotiate in any Mekong delta development negotiations, but it shows the United States is committed to play a constructive role in Asia's future.

You May Like

Analysts Warn of Regional Proxy Conflict in Afghanistan

Analysts warn if Kabul’s neighbors do not start to cooperate, competing desires for influence could deteriorate into a bloody proxy war in the country More

Saudi Intelligence Chief Replaced

Bandar bin Sultan came under criticism for supporting al Qaida, prompting King Abdallah to wrest Syria operations away from him in February, handing them to Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef More

Poetry Magazine editor Don Share talks what makes a good poem with VOA's David Byrd

What makes a good poem? And is poetry as viable an art form as it once was? To find out, VOA's David Byrd spoke to Don Share, the editor of Poetry Magazine. 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