04/06/2010, 00.00
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Mekong nations meet after 15 years

by Weena Kowitwanij
The second summit of the Mekong River Commission, which includes Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia, ended yesterday with a joint statement on a common action plan to develop the river. Delegates from Myanmar and China attend the meeting as ‘dialogue partners’. Beijing rejects accusations that its hydropower development is harming the river basin.
Hua Hin (AsiaNews) – The Mekong River Commission (MRC), which includes Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia, agreed on a priority action plan centred on greater trade co-operation, sustainable development and a better quality of life for riparian communities. The decision was taken at the second MRC summit, held in Hua Hin (Thailand). China and Myanmar were represented; both nations have observer status at the MRC. During the talks, China fended off accusations that its hydropower development upstream was responsible for water level decline.

The meeting was held to enable member nations to review developments since they adopted a number of agreements in 1995. Over the past 15 years, several projects and programmes have in fact been implemented in the fields of climate change and economic development. However, a new boost is needed to help the region, home to some of Asia’s poorest communities. Delegates agreed that their action plan must include co-operation with other intergovernmental bodies organised around river basins so that the MRC can learn from their experience.

The summit opened with a warning from Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, who said the river "will not survive" without good management.  "This summit is sending a message that all the countries in the Mekong Region, both its upper and lower parts, are stakeholders, and we all have to take joint responsibility for its long-term sustainability.”

The not so veiled reference was to the high Xiaowan Dam, which China is building on the upper Mekong (Lancang in Chinese), its fourth such dam.

“The meeting aims to further co-operation to develop the Mekong basin concretely and in a sustainable way so that the people living along the river will be living well,” said Saksit Tridech, permanent secretary of Thailand’s Natural Resources and Environment Ministry. “Talks are also concerned with the start of the strategy action plan to cope with the problem of hydrology, i.e. flooding and the lack of rain.”

The Mekong River runs for 4,880 kilometres, 2,130 of which are in China. Beijing has come in for criticism at the summit, but has rejected accusation against it.

Deputy Foreign Minister Song Tao, who was at the summit, said, “Statistics show that the recent drought that hit the whole river basin is attributable to the extreme dry weather, and the water level decline of the Mekong River has nothing to do with hydropower development “in China, noting that the mainland too was suffering from low levels of water.

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