Op-Ed (Coordinated by U.S. Embassy Vientiane, Lao PDR)
By: Major General Diana M. Holland, Mississippi River Commission President and Mississippi Valley Division Commander
Water is life. The need for this resource is universal, yet access to water is not guaranteed in many parts of the world. Together, the world faces new and evolving challenges.
Climate change—and it’s anticipated effects like prolonged droughts, changing weather patterns, and food insecurity—will create new barriers for vulnerable and at-risk communities to access clean drinking water and sufficient food sources. It is essential that we work together, across national and regional boundaries, to confront these emerging challenges. We all share a responsibility to protect and sustainably use our global natural resources to ensure they last.
One component of the Sister River Partnership is to facilitate reciprocal visits for representatives from the United States to travel to see the Mekong River and representatives from the Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, and the Mekong River Commission Secretariat to travel to see the Mississippi River.
These in-person exchanges highlight the enduring friendship and partnership between the two river commissions, and enable us to better understand the challenges impacting riparian communities in both locations. Most of all these in-person visits afford us the opportunity to learn first-hand from each other on best practices and lessons learned to protect our waterways.
My team and I recently had the opportunity to visit Laos, and we were thoroughly impressed by the grandness of the mighty Mekong. The river’s sheer importance to the community and the Lao way of life is immediately obvious and reminded us of our home along the Mississippi River.
During our time in Laos, we had the fortune of visiting the Mekong River in Vientiane, Luang Prabang, and Xayaboury, and we met with senior representatives from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, the Ministry of Energy and Mines, and the Mekong River Commission Secretariat headquartered in Vientiane.
My team and I observed immense dedication from the Lao People’s Democratic Republic to protect the Mekong River for generations to come.
I look forward to continued collaboration with the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, and I eagerly await the opportunity to warmly welcome representatives from the Lao PDR to visit the Mississippi River for the next Sister Rivers Partnership exchange.