We would like to respond to the article "Plans to dam the
Mekong causing widespread concern" (Phnom Penh Post, 11-24 Aug,
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
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
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.
inquiries from anyone interested in UNDP's role in support of the MRC.
- (signed) UNDP, Phnom Penh, Cambodia.