Minister of Water Resources and Meteorology Lim Kean Hor said on Tuesday that designing future systems and strategies for the Mekong River Basin is necessary to address the challenges of severe drought that continue to threaten livelihoods and the people’s way of life.
Speaking at the 26th Meeting of the Mekong River Commission (MRC) Council, Kean Hor said a Data and Information System Reinvigoration, as well as a Basin Development and Strategic Plan, would potentially increase short-term and long-term benefits for the river basin’s management.
The past few months have witnessed increased frequency and severity of drought in the region.
The MRC country members, due to limited data and technology, had also faced difficulties in providing the appropriate actions toward the emerging changes in the Mekong River Basin, he said.
In response to the recent challenges and calamities, Kean Hor had forwarded his ministry’s support for the implementation of future development and strategic plans as a means to address the changes in the Mekong River Basin.
He also encouraged MRC’s dialogue partners, China and Myanmar, to continue giving their full cooperation to the MRC member countries.
The present challenges, as well as those that could be anticipated given the recent events in the Mekong Basin, will require “the collective commitment and cooperation from all parties,” he said.
During the annual meeting in Phnom Penh, the MRC ministerial council approved a drought management strategy for 2020-2025 to enable Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand, and Vietnam to jointly prepare for and manage drought effectively.
The MRC’s press release said the newly adopted strategy was drafted following the sharp decline in the Mekong water levels – the lowest it has been in 60 years.
“The strategy is set to focus on five priority areas that have been assessed as “poorly functioning” and “requiring immediate attention to address droughts”, said the press release.
In a statement released on Tuesday, MRC’s development partners encouraged the commission and its member countries “to further strengthen community engagement through meaningful national and regional consultations”.
“To that end, relevant documents should be disseminated in national languages in a timely manner,” it said.
The MRC press release cited extreme drought events in the past decade, including the 2016 drought in Thailand which brought serious economic losses estimated at $1.7 billion, and the recent drought in Cambodia which caused water shortages in 18 out of 25 provinces, with 2.5 million people lacking water.