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Mekong plan set for donor review

Mekong plan set for donor review

T HE four member countries of the Mekong River Commission will be looking for donor

support for about $150 million in spending when they meet in Ho Chi Minh City next

week.

According to a draft of the commission's "Mekong Work Program 1996" report,

the countries hope to obtain $148.6 million for 78 main projects in Cambodia, Laos,

Thailand and Vietnam and 24 "pipeline projects".

The joint committee of the four countries will meet with representatives of the international

donor communities, the Asian Development Bank, the World Bank and United Nations

agencies November 8-9 for what has been described as "a shopping-list"

for donor support to the massive development projects.

The joint committed is expected to formally adopt the MRC's work program of 1996

and then present it to the donors.

Cambodia's part of the program amounts to a total of $29 million for nine main projects,

including a $18.2 million project for upgrading ferry facilities on the Mekong, for

which funds have already been secured through Danish grant aid.

The draft-working plan includes a large number of basin wide projects affecting the

four countries with the main focus on hydro-electric power and dam projects.

Among the purely Cambodian projects that delegates from Phnom Penh will try to secure

funding for are a $3.3 million, 22 month, and feasibility study on a power generation

and irrigation project for the Prek Thnot river basin, south of Phnom Penh.

"With a storage dam and power-station the project could provide water for irrigation

up to about 34,000 hectares and supply electric power (18 MW) to the capital,"

said the draft.

It said the "immediate objectives" for which funding will be sought arte

to "carry out preparatory and planning studies and rehabilitation work which

are grouped into three components" including the dam and power station and studies

on the main canals and irrigable areas.

The study would look at the resettlement of villagers affected by the dam and environmental

effects, in addition to the creation of a master plan, designs and tender documents

for the project.

"The agricultural sector is recognized as a top priority sector in the national

reconstruction program and the government of Cambodia is determined to raise the

level of food production and make the country self-sufficient so that foreign food

aid will not be required," said the draft.

"With an agricultural development potential of about 50,000 hectares (the project)

will definitely contribute towards achieving this goal with the advantage that the

project would also increase the supply of electric power to the capital through the

transmission line connecting the Kirirom hydropower plant with the capital,"

the draft said.

Cambodia is also looking for funds for a $2.5 million "irrigation rehabilitation

and capacity building" study, for which $1.3 million has already been secured

from the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).

"In recognition of the key role the irrigation sector plays in increasing food

production to, at the least, self-sufficiency level, the project is aimed at providing

a technically sound base upon which to build a program of irrigation rehabilitation

at its initial stage," said the draft report.

Project activities would include training personnel, updating of information collected

in a previous study and preparation of manuals for irrigation projects.

Objectives of the study would be to "obtain a general view of the irrigation

sector in Cambodia," to "analyze the existing irrigation systems,"

and to "develop a prioritized project pipeline for the urgent rehabilitation

of the irrigation sector" as well as to strengthen institutional capabilities.

Cambodia is also pitching smaller feasibility studies at costs of $240,000 to $650,000

for hydropower projects on the Kamchay River in southern Cambodia and basin irrigation

and hydropower generation projects in the Battambang and Stung Mongkol Borei river

Basins in the northwest.

These project plans also include updating a hydrographic atlas "including information

on topographic feature of the Mekong corridor covering the area of two to five km

on both sides of the river". The government of Finland has committed $433,000

out of the $645,000 needed of that.

A $240,000 study is requested to "formulate a strategy for long-term development

of inland navigation" and the vital river transport sector.

Another project to be discussed is a $960,000 reappraisal on the Sambor hydropower

project. The project, located in Kratie province, is of widespread concern due to

its possible massive impact on thousands of people whose lives depends on the fisheries

resources.

Finally, on the list is a $1.9 million aerial photography-mapping project for which

most funds have already been secured through joint donations from Belgium, the European

Union, Finland and the UNDP.

"The output of the project is aerial photography of the 181,000 square kilometers

of Cambodia at a scale of 1:25,000 consisting of the negatives and six sets of photographs.

The draft work program for 1996 is aimed at functioning as the guideline for the

MRC until the final version of The Basin Development Plan (BDP) is completed in 1997.

The draft is expected to be adopted by the four countries next week in Ho Chi Minh

City without any major changes.

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