MRC Summit in Hua Hin – peacefully and successful

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Mekong River Commission pledges to boost cooperation, ecological balance HUA HIN, Thailand, April 5 (Xinhua) — The country members of the Mekong River Commission (MRC) agreed in a joint Declaration after the MRC Summit here Monday to enhance cooperation in a bid to protect the Mekong River’s immense value of natural ecosystems and ecological balance. “Further cooperation over the coming years between the governments of member countries will be required to optimize multiple-use of water resources and mutual benefits for all riparians, to avoid any harmful effect that might result from natural occurrences and man-made activities and to protect the immense vale of natural ecosystems and ecological balance,”the MRC Hua Hin Declaration said. Hence, action plans are essential for the member countries to implement in order to reduce the loss of life and assets at risk from flooding and loss of livelihoods from drought conditions — the critical emerging challenges, the Declaration said. Also, the country members will cooperate to ensure effective management of water for agricultural production, particularly as part of drought management strategies. Meanwhile, they agree to focus on researching and addressing the threat to livelihood posed by climate change and cooperating with other regional partners in addressing haze pollution. In this regard, the Declaration said “we acknowledge the progress made to extend cooperation between the MRC and international, regional and local partners including MRC’s Dialogue Partners, namely the People’s Republic of China and the Union of Myanmar and its Development Partners.” The Declaration expressed appreciation for the sharing of hydro- meteorological data by China in the current drought situation, as well as the hope that the cooperation will be continued. Among the top priorities of MRC include intensified efforts to effectively reduce the risks from flood, drought, and sea level rise, including establishment of forecast and warning systems across the whole basis, it said. The first Mekong River Commission Summit was held here in Thailand’s central resort town Hua Hin as overall the member countries discussed ways to enhance transboudary cooperation for long-term sustainability. The Summit was hosted amid tight security as the Internal Security Act has been enforced in four sub-districts of Hua Hin district in PrachuabKhiri Khan province and two other sub- districts of Cha Am district in Petchburi province until April 6. Meanwhile, during the MRC Summit here it is agreed by the member countries that the MRC Summit will be convened every four years. The Mekong River The Mekong is one of the world’s major rivers. It is the world’s 12th-longest riverand the 7th-longest in Asia. Its estimated length is 4,350 km (2,703 mi), and it drains an area of 795,000 km2 (307,000 sq mi), discharging 475 km3 (114 cu mi) of water annually. From the Tibetan Plateau this river runs through China’s Yunnan province, Burma, Laos, Thailand , Cambodia and Vietnam. All these areas except China and Burma belong to the Mekong River Commission. The extreme seasonal variations in flow and the presence of rapids and waterfalls in this river have made navigation extremely difficult.

ENVIRONMENTAL CONCERNS
The two most current issues facing the river are the building of dams and blasting of rapids. A number of dams have already been built on the river’s tributaries, notably the Pak Mun dam in Thailand. This has been criticised on grounds of cost as well as damage to the environment and to the livelihoods of affected villagers, though none have been built on the main part itself. China is engaged in an extensive program of dam-building on the river itself: it has already completed three, the first called the Manwan dam, another twelve are under consideration. Poverty stricken Cambodia is one nation that is completely dependent on the river for food and the vast majority of its fledgling economy. The annual floods provide much needed water for crops of the otherwise dry dusty land, and to refresh Tonle Sap, yet its major cities are all vulnerable to flooding. The Tonle Sap Biosphere Reserve has been created to try to protect areas around the Tonle Sap Lake and river, which is connected to the Mekong.[11] The Mekong River Commission, a panel of the region’s nations, has accused China of blatantly disregarding the nations downstream in its plans to dam the river in an effort to stop the dams, but to no avail. Since the building of the first Chinese dam, many species have become endangered including the Mekong dolphin and manatee, water levels have dropped as ferries get stuck, fish caught are small and the catch is less than half of before the dam, the turnover at Chiang Rai port is less than one fourth of previous years, and crossings from Chiang Rai to isolated Luang Prabang have lengthened from 8 hours to 2 days due to inadequate water levels. Despite all these problems, new dams planned will have significantly worse impact if carried out as planned. All nations downstream and the environment will suffer from added pollution (due to development and relatively lax regulation and enforcement in China compared to Thailand, poisoning the food supply from pesticide runoff and heavy industry, as well as promoting algal blooms from organophosphates from agriculture, as well as water hyacinth infestation), river blockage problems as fish cannot swim upstream to spawn, and potentially devastating very low water flow. Other environmental concerns arise from increased water flow in some parts as China clears rocks and sandbars, blasts gorges, and slows water as it dams and floods other sections, and relocates indigenous peoples. Cambodia is by far the most exposed, depending on a fine balance of water flow, fearing scenarios of mass famine and devastating floods, the likes of which destroyed the Angkor kingdom 700 years ago. Laos’ biggest cities all hug the Mekong as does Vietnam’s largest city and financial hub, Ho Chi Minh City, which would be vulnerable mostly to low flow and pollution.

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