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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs   5 April  2012

World Bank support for Mekong river management

The World Bank yesterday committed more than 63.7 billion kip (US$8 million) to the Mekong River Commission (MRC) to promote trans-boundary management of regional river resources.

MRC's Chief Executive Officer Hans Guttman and World Bank Country Director for Southeast Asia and Mongolia Annette Dixon signed the financial support agreement at the MRC's headquarters in Vientiane yesterday.

The funding will be used to increase dialogue, cooperation and understanding on integrated water resources management principles among the lower Mekong countries that are members of the MRC - Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam.

The five-year support scheme aims to facilitate dialogue and the implementation of pilot activities that address key trans-boundary water resource management issues in the lower Mekong basin, which is home to about 600 million people.

It will also help to establish an approach for environmental impact risk and disaster risk management, an MRC press release said.

The main activities to be conducted under the programme include improving communication with key stakeholders including the government, the private sector, civil society and local communities so that they are better informed on how water and related resource usage in one territory could potentially cause negative effects that go beyond borders.

The cooperation between the World Bank and the MRC is expected to serve as an example of how the two can work to implement quality, integrated water management practices in the lower Mekong basin at the regional, national and sub-national levels.

“Through this initiative, the MRC will assist member countries in applying integrated water resources management to their national decision-making and implementing initiatives on trans-boundary management such as a joint fisheries management projects on the Mekong and Xekong rivers in Cambodia and Laos,” Guttman said.

The bank's contribution will bring about greater trans-boundary cooperation among governments and other stakeholders. Already, communities in Thailand's Songkhla Lake Basin have begun meeting with their counterparts from Cambodia's Tonle Sap Lake to exchange experiences, he added.

The financial support will go to the MRC's Mekong Integrated Water Resource Management project, which promotes coordinated development and management of water and related resources, ensuring that economic and social welfare is maximised without compromising the sustainability of ecosystems.

Head of the Secretariat of the National Mekong River Committee and MRC board member Monmany Nhoibuakong was present at the signing ceremony.

The Mekong River, the world's 12th longest and the 7th longest river in Asia flows through six countries--China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. But only Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam are currently members of the Mekong River Commission.

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