PR – MRC Council Must Back Rhetoric With Action to Sustain the Mekong's Future

Wednesday, January 14, 2015


Sunset on the Mekong River in Siphandone
Sunset on the Mekong River in Siphandone

Bangkok, Thailand: On Thursday January 15th, the 21st meeting of the Mekong River Commission (MRC) Council will be held in Hanoi, Vietnam. As part of this meeting, MRC Council members will discuss how to move forward with management and development of the Lower Mekong River Basin, including reviewing progress on the MRC Council Study which was originally proposed to evaluate the impacts of planned dams on the Lower Mekong mainstream. However, the meeting comes at a time of increasing crisis for the Mekong River and for the MRC, as rhetoric on the importance of regional cooperation has given way to unilateral decision-making over projects which threaten to destroy the future of the Mekong and her people.

“Faced with the rapid development of dams on the Lower Mekong mainstream, and increasing threats to regional cooperation, the MRC has failed to respond with adequate action, said Ame Trandem, Southeast Asia Program Director for International Rivers. “If the MRC is going to continue to be the body that promotes and facilitates regional decision-making on the future of the Mekong River, then urgent and immediate reform is needed and discussion at the MRC Council meeting should be the first step to making these changes.”

At the 2nd Mekong Summit in April 2014, the leaders of Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam re-affirmed their commitment to Mekong cooperation and highlighted the need to expedite studies and research which will provide advice for developments on the Mekong. At the last MRC Council meeting held in June 2014, the Council similarly emphasized the importance of these studies to understand the potential transboundary impacts of dams on the Mekong. However, despite such commitments, little progress has been made on the MRC Council Study, which was first proposed in 2011. The MRC Council Study intended to help inform decision-making over the future development of dams on the Mekong mainstream, and yet projects including the Xayaburi and Don Sahong dams have advanced rapidly without such knowledge.

“Decisions about the future of the shared Mekong River must be based on sound data and scientific study of the entire basin, and destructive projects should not be allowed to move forward blindly,” said Pianporn Deetes, Thailand Campaign Coordinator for International Rivers. “Mekong governments should be prioritizing the value of the Mekong River and recognizing the role that it plays in the lives of millions of people.”

Mekong governments have a shared responsibility under the 1995 Mekong Agreement to cooperate in “good faith” in order to “protect the environment, natural resources, aquatic life…and ecological balance of the Mekong River Basin,” said Ame Trandem. “As a critical decision on the future of the Don Sahong Dam approaches and plans for future dams on the Mekong are rapidly progressing, it is time for the commitment from regional governments and the MRC to move beyond simple rhetoric and into action to prevent crisis in the Mekong. As a shared river, the Council must demand agreement amongst the four countries and its people in addition to the prior consultation process occurring over the Don Sahong Dam. Anything less and the MRC will have failed in its responsibilities, demonstrating just how broken it has become."

The MRC’s Prior Consultation process for the Don Sahong Dam is expected to come to a close on January 24th, when the MRC’s Joint Committee holds a special meeting over the project during which each Mekong country will present its position on the project.

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