The Mekong River Commission (MRC) is expected to promote regional economic growth in the Lower Mekong River Basin and protect the mighty Mekong River which is under increasing threat, according to the MRC Secretariat CEO.
Under the theme of Innovation and Cooperation for a Water Secure and Sustainable Mekong, the summit will be held from 2-5 April in Vientiane Capital.
The summit will invite leaders from Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Thailand to renew their political commitment to the MRC’s mandate, which promotes regional cooperation and responsible development along the four riparian states.
“Apart from strengthening regional cooperation, the MRC summit will call for the need to have policy innovation, an application of a new development approach and modern technology to boost economic growth while maintaining environmental sustainability,” the CEO of MRC, Dr. Anoulak Kittikhoun, said in an interview with Lao media on March 28 ahead of the 4th MRC Summit that kicks off with its international conference this weekend in Vientiane.
High-level representatives from China and Myanmar, and some 600 attendees representing development partners, non-governmental organizations, academia, and the private sector will also take part in the week-long event to discuss the current state of regional development, challenges, and opportunities in the basin.
According to the State of the Mekong Basin report released in 2019, many environmental indicators in the Mekong turned red, notably regarding water flow and sediment transport, flood plains, wetlands, watersheds, and biodiversity.
Dr. Kittikhoun, who is the first Lao national to serve as the top leader of the MRC Secretariat, said that to address ongoing Mekong challenges, the MRC sees the need to explore more information sharing and coordination of water infrastructure projects and to be more proactive in regional planning to develop joint investment projects. As well as, the engagements with China and Myanmar so that the six nations could join hands to protect the Mekong River, he added.
“Good cooperation with Dialogue Partners has been achieved. For example, China has agreed to provide year-round hydrology data to the MRC. This marks a significant milestone in the regional cooperation,” he said, adding that the water flow data availability enables the MRC to provide flood and drought forecasts more effectively so that riparian communities will be prepared to accommodate the changes.
The MRC was established in 1995 under the 1995 Mekong Agreement. Though China and Myanmar are not MRC members, the two upriver nations – due to proactive MRC diplomacy – have cooperated with the MRC on many initiatives such as the ongoing Joint Study to understand the changing river conditions, and have shown intention to enhance even more collaboration with the Lower Mekong countries.
According to Dr. Kittikhoun, the MRC has achieved several successes in providing technical support for regional cooperation in sustaining Mekong development including the completion of the Mekong Basin Development Strategy, a blueprint strategy for the whole basin.
The four-member states have endorsed the MRC guidelines for hydropower development along the Mekong. This is to ensure that the cross-border impact of future infrastructure development will be minimized while ensuring a balance of economic growth and environmental sustainability.