Mekong Day Celebrations Emphasize Cooperation, Conservation Efforts

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(Photo: MRC)

Representatives from Mekong Basin nations, along with development partners, convened at the Mekong River Commission (MRC) Secretariat to mark the 29th Mekong Day, focusing on initiatives to preserve and improve the health of the Mekong Basin.

The highlight of the event was the third State of the Mekong Address delivered by Anoulak Kittikhoun, the CEO of the MRC Secretariat. Kittikhoun provided an overview of the current state of the Mekong River Basin, outlining progress, challenges, and strategies for sustainable management and development.

“For 29 years, I can confidently say that our Mekong countries have cooperated far more than they do not, in areas that affect the Mekong,” Kittikhoun commented, “This year we will release our highly anticipated State of the Basin Report as well as the Mekong Atlas. Compared to 5 – 10 years ago, the Mekong has changed dramatically, for better and worse. Among better news, the Mekong region has continued to enjoy peace, which sadly is not the case everywhere in the world.”

The economic output of the Mekong basin reached USD 63 billion annually, driven by sectors such as hydropower, rice production, tourism, navigation, and aquaculture. Despite challenges, the Mekong remains home to the largest inland wild fisheries globally, generating significant revenue.

Socially, there has been progress with improved access to food, clean water, sanitation, and electricity, leading to reduced rates of malnutrition and water-related diseases across the Mekong countries.

However, environmental challenges persist. Erratic hydromet conditions, including droughts and floods, have impacted the region. Declining trends in sediment balance, salinity intrusion, and plastic pollution pose threats to the ecological health of the Mekong.

Efforts to address these challenges are ongoing, with initiatives such as sediment monitoring showing positive results in certain areas. CEO Kittikhoun called for cooperation among countries, strengthening relations with upstream riparian China, building ties with ASEAN, and maintaining partnerships worldwide.

The MRC also announced the continuation of the “Transboundary Water Cooperation in the Lower Mekong Basin” project in collaboration with the German government, emphasizing the commitment to fostering transboundary cooperation and sustainable water management in the region.

Annette Knobloch, the German Ambassador to Laos, highlighted the importance of international cooperation in water resource management for the peaceful and sustainable future of the region.

“Through the Transboundary Water Cooperation Project (TWC), Germany will continue to cooperate with the Mekong River Commission on its pathway to provide services for an integrated water resources management, not only along the Mekong core river but as a basin-wide approach,” said  Knobloch.

Additionally, the Canadian government also provided CAD 2 million (about USD 1.48 million) to the MRC for institutional development, emphasizing the significance of water resource governance in the Mekong Basin as a priority area for Canadian engagement.

These Mekong Day celebrations showcased the collective efforts to address challenges and promote sustainable development in the Mekong Basin, highlighting the importance of cooperation and partnership in safeguarding the region’s future.