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Dams not UNDP's

Dams not UNDP's

The Editor,

We would like to respond to the article "Plans to dam the

Mekong causing widespread concern" (Phnom Penh Post, 11-24 Aug,

1995).

First, a correction must be brought to the article, which reads

that constructing dams "... is even more tempting, given that international

donors such as UNDP... would likely pay much of the construction costs."

Actually, UNDP's mandate prevents it from providing capital investment funds for

any large construction projects. UNDP is a technical assistance, grant agency

which provides expertise for the purposes of alleviating poverty, generating

employment, regenerating the environment, and improving governance through

sustainable, people-centered development.

In the case of Cambodia, it

should be noted that UNDP was the first major donor to provide direct assistance

to the Ministry (then Secretariat) of Environment, and to promote the concepts

of Environmental Impact Assessment in all aspects of infrastructure and economic

development, A total of $7.85 million from UNDP's resources in Cambodia (1993 to

1996) are dedicated to projects which specifically target sustainable management

of the environment and natural resources sector (including, for example, the

Tonle Sap Lake area). UNDP is also undertaking, before the end of 1995, a

comprehensive Water Resource Development Strategy study that will set the stage

for an integrated approach to sustainable water resources management in

Cambodia.

The establishment of the Mekong River Commission (MRC) presents

a unique opportunity for the riparian countries to cooperate toward the common

goal of the sustainable development of the Mekong River. The formulation of a

Basin Development Plan, referred to in your article as a regional master plan,

will provide an integrated and comprehensive planning and implementation

framework, and will contribute to the promotion of sustainable

development.

It is hoped that the evaluation criteria for selection and

prioritization of projects for which funding will be sought by the MRC will

include considerations related to, among others, the social and environmental

impact of proposed development schemes. UNDP's support to the Mekong River

Commission as a sub-regional body, as well as directly to member countries

thorough its regular country programs, is centered on finding the appropriate

balance between development and environmental protection, and how to meet human

needs without threatening the ecosystems on which life depends. It is our hope

that by assisting mechanisms like the Mekong River Commission, including the

development studies undertaken in the context of the Basin Development Plan, we

are maximizing our ability to influence the member countries to fully embrace

the concepts of sustainable and participatory development.

We welcome

inquiries from anyone interested in UNDP's role in support of the MRC.

- (signed) UNDP, Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

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