Mekong Ministers Approve Navigation and Environment Plans

AKP Phnom Penh, The Mekong River Commission (MRC) says environment and water-resource ministers from Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam have approved a navigation plan for the four countries and a regional environmental strategy.

In a statement, the MRC said the two documents were among several approved during a virtual meeting held in the southern Lao city of Paksong on Thursday.

The statement said the new Master Plan for Regional Waterborne Transport in the Mekong River Basin would help “improve national and international transport networks using the Mekong in the four Lower Mekong countries.”

It will also “enable the MRC to improve navigation rules, attract investment, and realise the potential of regional trade.”

Released late Friday, the statement noted that waterborne transport had been “one of the main modes of transport” in the Mekong region for centuries.

As for the new regional environmental management strategy, the MRC described this document as “the first of its kind that covers the whole Lower Mekong Basin.”

Over the five years to 2025, the strategy “seeks to restore, protect, and manage environmental assets of regional importance,” it said.

The MRC noted that the Mekong River Basin was a “global biodiversity hotspot” with 12 types of habitat. These range from highlands to coastal waters and include peat swamps, subterranean streams and crater lakes.

“These environmental assets support critical ecological services and functions for millions of people.”

Among other documents approved was a five-year plan to prevent and manage water-related risks and emergencies. The plan includes initiatives in areas such as managing sediments and valuing ecosystems.

Lao Natural Resources and Environment Minister Sommad Pholsena — current chair of the MRC ministerial council — said the approvals “made it clear that we are committed to addressing the mounting challenges facing the basin.”

He said the four countries were also committed to “bringing about responsible developments that further improve living standards for the poor.”

Source: Agency Kampuchea Press